It had been over two years since his last game in the National Hockey League, one he played with the team that drafted him 21st overall in 2006 – the New York Rangers.
Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, Sanguinetti got to face his former team, sitting on the opposite bench with the Carolina Hurricanes. It was his NHL debut with the club that acquired him in the summer of 2010 for a couple of draft picks.
It was an emotional game, to say the least – or, as he said on Twitter
, he felt “like a kid waiting for Christmas.”
“I just wanted to get my feet under me and get back to that speed up here,” he said.
After not playing an NHL game since December of 2009, jumping into the action against the Eastern Conference’s top team was a tall task. Sanguinetti himself admitted as much. Paired with Bryan Allen
, Sanguinetti saw regular ice time in the first period and the first half of the second period. He even saw power play time with point partner Jay Harrison
Head coach Kirk Muller then shortened his defensive bench, and Sanguinetti didn’t see another shift for the remainder of the game. His ice time totaled 9:39.
“It’s late in the year, and I know he’s played up here (in the NHL) before,” Muller said. “But that’s a big jump in the pace, and that’s a good hockey team.”
Muller said he told Sanguinetti not to judge his game “based on the ice time [he] had,” and rather, to “concentrate on tonight’s game.”
In terms of the opponent, tonight won’t be any easier. St. Louis is the Western Conference’s best team and the leading contender for the President’s Trophy with 98 points. At 45-18-8 overall, the Blues are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
But now with a game and a couple of morning skates under his belt, tonight’s game should be easier from an emotional standpoint.
“A lot of guys have been helping me – from the coaches to Ally (Allen) being my partner five-on-five and Harry (Harrison) on the power play,” Sanguinetti said. “It’s a great group of guys that have made me feel comfortable and help me on the ice.”
Sanguinetti missed 47 games last season in Charlotte after surgery to repair a small tear in his hip labrum. Originally projected
in November of 2010 to miss the remainder of the Checkers’ season, Sanguinetti returned
in mid-March for the stretch drive and the team’s playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final. But, he wasn’t the same.
“I wasn’t where I needed to be with my hip strength, and I don’t think my game was where I would have liked to have been,” he said. “But, to get back to try to help the team was big. We made a run, and that was nice.”
Sanguinetti came into training camp this season feeling stronger but fell victim to another November injury – this time, a broken foot, which sidelined him for a month.
So, how does he feel now?
“It kind of set me back, but I’m finally healthy now and getting back to where I need to be,” Sanguinetti said with an evident air of relief. “I do appreciate [the call-up] a lot more because it took awhile to get back.”
The numbers certainly haven’t been in Sanguinetti’s favor. He made the trip to Europe at the beginning of last season with the Canes as a healthy extra but didn’t crack the lineup. This season, a spot on the blue line hasn’t been vacant, especially with sought after unrestricted free agents remained with the team past the trade deadline. But, when Jaroslav Spacek
went down with a lower-body injury in Florida, Sanguinetti got the call.
“You just try not to worry about it,” Sanguinetti said of not getting recalled. “If you let it beat you up, and you’re thinking about it all the time – ‘this is it, this is it’ – you’re not going to play your game. I’m just going to trust my instincts.”ROSTER NOTES
Muller reshuffled the lines
for tonight, putting Eric Staal
and Jeff Skinner
"They're our best players, and you need them on the ice," he said.
After being a healthy scratch in New York, Anthony Stewart
should play on the fourth-line wing tonight opposite Derek Joslin
, with Tm Brent centering. Jerome Samson
will be the healthy extra. Jiri Tlusty
skated this morning, and Muller said he hopes to have him back in the lineup by the weekend.
Spacek also skated, and Muller tagged the weekend for his return, as well. Coming off knee surgery, Joni Pitkanen
skated with the team for the first time today, but he's probably at least a week off from returning to the lineup.