DALLAS - This isn't David Rittich's first NHL recall but his experience this morning definitely feels like a 'Welcome to the NHL' moment.
Skating out to his post at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Jaromir Jagr whipped a shot right on target, making Rittich very much aware of his presence.
"I just moved my head out of the shot and was like, 'Okay. Thank you,'" the Czech netminder laughed.
"Everyone in Czech is a fan of Jaromir Jagr. He's a legend. He played … I don't even know how many games he played in the NHL. It's unbelievable. He's 45 or something and he's still in the NHL. It's pretty good.
"If someone told me 10 years ago I will play or I will be practicing with Jagr, I'd be like, 'No way. No chance.' And it's coming true so I'm happy about it."
Summoned this morning, Rittich will back up Mike Smith this evening when the Flames take on the Stars at 7:00 p.m. MT. It's been a hectic 24 hours for the netminder, who was on the road with Heat when he got the call from Flames general manager Brad Treliving. Over the past 24 hours, he's made stops in California and Arizona, eventually boarding a 6:00 a.m. flight out of Phoenix to make it to Dallas for this morning's skate.
"It was a long day for me yesterday … I'm so excited that I can be here and I'm ready for everything right now."
The 25-year-old is in the midst of a tremendous season with the Heat. He holds a 5-1-0 record with two shutouts, a 2.17 GAA and a .931 save percentage. He has won his last four games, making 30+ saves in three of those outings.
"I've felt great in every single game," he said of his time in Stockton. "I want to give the best chance for our team to win. It's my job, just stop the puck and give a chance to win."
"He's proven, as with all of our young goalies, to be a very good prospect. So between himself and Jon (Gillies), they've done really good things in the minors," Gulutzan added. "We're going to get him up here and we've kind of got a plan moving forward with what we want to do. But as far Ritty goes, I love his compete level. Very likeable guy and very capable."
Rittich's NHL experience is limited to one period in Game 82 of the 2017-18 and some time in Calgary during the pre-season. Coming into this situation is drastically different than those short stints with the Flames but he'll have a veteran presence in net to lean on if he has any questions or concerns.
"Briefly this morning when he got here, I had a chance to talk to him," Mike Smith said. "Obviously a young guy coming in, I've been there and done that so I look forward to helping out a young guy.
"Actually here, when I was in Dallas, Marty Turco was such a big influence on my career and my life away from the rink too. That's something I take pride in. I'll be the first one to admit I want to help the young guys come along. I realize I'm not going to be able to play forever so anything I can help out with a younger guy coming up through, I'll definitely be doing it."