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Tkachuk set to skate in 10th NHL game

The Flames' rookie will play tonight in San Jose

by Torie Peterson @ToriePeterson /

SAN JOSE, CA -- When Matthew Tkachuk saw the clip pop up, he was a bit nervous.

"We were doing video here in the morning and Gully showed a bad clip of me ... He said that it just takes one mistake to be out of this league," Tkachuk recounted. "But then he showed a couple good ones and said, 'You've done enough good things to stay.' 

"All the guys congratulated me after and kind of made me sweat it out a little, that's for sure. It felt really good."

It's official - Tkachuk has made it through the nine-game trial run team's are afforded with rookies.

The winger, who was selected sixth overall in this past summer's NHL Draft, has proven to his coaches and the Flames' management group that he has what it takes to play in the league.

In nine games, Tkachuk has scored one goal and registered four points. He has earned a spot on a line with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik and has been tasked with helping the veteran pair shutdown other team's top lines.

"He's always in the fabric of the game. He's always around the net. I (think) he's done a great job of managing pucks and getting pucks in deep," head coach Glen Gulutzan explained.

"He's still a young guy but he's done a lot of real good things. He's got a really good small game - in small spaces. He can make plays in tight areas. He's done a good job of that."

Tkachuk has been a sponge, soaking up as much information as he can from his coaches and teammates since arriving in Calgary. He has been happy with how he's progressed since training camp, noting the uptick in his play over the last few skates and how he's feeling more and more comfortable every game.

But he still had some anxiety surrounding Game 10 and whether or not he would push past that nine-game mark.

"I was pretty nervous. This is ... not a milestone but a hurdle you've got to get over," he said.

"It's really exciting. It's definitely something I had on my mind when I got drafted here, I wanted to play in the NHL this year. The good thing is that nothing changes in my mindset. It's still a day-by-day process. There's still a possibility that you may not be here the rest of the year. I've just got to keep that mindset."

After this morning's video session and meeting wrapped up, the team shared what they wanted to see Tkachuk do moving forward.

"Don't change a thing," was how Tkachuk summed up the coaches' message to him. "Play in their face. I've done some good things since I've been here so I've just got to keep it up."

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind for Tkachuk, from rookie camp to training camp to the pre-season and now the regular season. He credits the coaching staff and his teammates for making the transition go as smoothly as possible.

"It's pretty crazy," he said. "Just the fact you have the chance to be playing in the NHL to start and to play as an 18-year-old right after you got drafted then to hopefully play the rest of the year. Play with such great guys. They're such great teammates. Great guys off the ice (too).

"It's a privilege to play beside them and try to help win some games."

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