With Jiri Tlusty
suffering an upper-body injury in Thursday night’s shootout win over Atlanta, Zach Boychuk
will get his first big-league opportunity of the season.
Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford said that the 21-year-old Boychuk would be recalled from the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers Friday evening. The Canes’ first-round pick in 2008 ranks tied for second in league scoring with 32 points (10g, 22a) in 28 games.
“He didn’t have as good of a training camp as he would have liked, but he did what all good players do in development leagues – he worked hard,” said Rutherford. “He’s earned the opportunity.”
Saturday’s home contest against Anaheim will mark Boychuk’s first NHL game of the season. Beginning with a two-game stint in his draft year, he’s played 33 total games with the Hurricanes, scoring 3 goals with 6 assists.
Rutherford said that he expected Boychuk to play in Tlusty’s spot on the left wing of either the third or fourth line. Tlusty had started the Atlanta game on the third unit with Patrick Dwyer and Chad LaRose, but that spot was filled by Sergei Samsonov after the injury.
The injury to Tlusty, which expected to sideline the 22-year-old Czech for “a week or two,” comes at an inopportune time. Rutherford believed that Tlusty, who had 2 goals in his last four games entering Thursday night, was just starting to round into form after a difficult start caused in part by offseason knee surgery.
“He’s a very smart player who is going to get better and better when he gets past these injuries,” said Rutherford. “The key for him is to get to the tough areas of the ice in front of the net to score goals.”
Tlusty was hurt in the first period when he was charged by the Thrashers’ Ben Eager while kneeling on the ice along the boards. Rutherford called the play “kind of a cheap shot” and said he initially feared for a worse prognosis.
“It’s not as bad as we expected,” he said.
Rutherford said that the key for Boychuk, however long this NHL stint will last, will be to keep displaying the consistency he’s showed since starting the season in Charlotte.
“He’s a guy that should be able to play in the top six (in the NHL),” said Rutherford. “He just has to get to the pace at this level and get through the grind of 82 games.”
The GM added that there were other players in Charlotte to consider for the spot, but Boychuk earned the nod due to the big numbers and strong work ethic he's displayed all season.