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Maki makes NHL debut, receives honourable red tie

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

For as long as he can remember Tomi Maki wanted to play in the National Hockey League. As a kid, growing up in Helsinki, Finland, that was all he could think about.

Tuesday he got the chance. And yes, he was nervous.

"It's what I have been dreaming about since I was a kid so I was a little nervous," said Maki, a 5' 11", 193-pound tank of a player.

A fourth round draft pick of the Calgary Flames in 2001 who turned 23 in August, was called up from the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, the Flames top affiliate in the American Hockey League for Tuesday's game against the Minnesota Wild.

"You just have to wait for your chance, get better every day, work hard. It's a matter of time," said Maki.

Maki's timing was pretty good as the Flames lit up the Wild 5-2 and set a franchise record for most consecutive wins at home with 10.

And, to top it off, Maki received the Flames all business tie, awarded after wins to the player who is judged to have taken care of business during the game.

The time in the NHL, however, was short-lived as the Flames re-assigned Maki to Omaha on Wednesday as they headed out on a six-game road trip.

After spending three season in the Finnish Elite League, Maki came to North America last season, finishing seventh in team scoring in Omaha with 29 points, including 12 goals.

This season he had one goal and five assists in 21 games prior to being called up -- just the second forward to be pulled from the farm this season. The other was Brandon Prust, another of the so-called "energy" players in the system.

"I'm a hard-working guy. I try and bring a lot of skating, a lot of energy to the table. And keep things simple," said Maki, who was even in 10:56 of ice time.

That style of play isn't going to change now that he is in Calgary to replace Marcus Nilson, who is sidelined with a knee injury.

Flames Injury Report and 2006-07 Roster Moves

"I'm still trying to play my game," said Maki. "Nothing changes. That is what the coaches expect from me."

Maki wasn't the only rookie in the line-up on Tuesday. Injuries to defencemen Rhett Warrener (leg) and Andrei Zyuzin (groin) meant two more Knight regulars were in the line-up.

The Flames paired Mark Giordano and Richie Regehr, the younger brother of Flames assistant captain Robyn Regehr, together against the Wild.

"They (Richie Regehr and Mark Giordano) did fine. The ice opened up a lot for them when they brought the puck up the ice. I thought they overskated some outlets but that's because they had more ice in front of them then normal," said Flames head coach Jim Playfair.

"That's the thing with injuries; when players come in they are supposed to be good players. They are supposed to come in and do what they are supposed to do. It's not you're trying to protect players, you bring them in and you play them and they did what they're supposed to do."

Said Regehr: "I thought we played solid. There are a couple of plays we would like back but it was pretty good overall. We had played together a little bit in Omaha so we know some of each other's habits."

While the defencemen had previously spent time with the big club, the Sea of Red at the Pengrowth Saddledome was a new experience for Maki.

Not that he isn't used to playing in North America.

"The (adjustment) wasn't as bad as I expected. In Europe there is a lot of speed and skill. Here it is a smaller rink and there is more hitting. That's what I like to play, to play hard and physical."

And now he has a red tie to show for it.

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