– Game No. 81 might not be meaningful in the standings for the Carolina Hurricanes, but it will certainly be meaningful to Keegan Lowe
, who will make his NHL debut against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“It feels pretty surreal right now,” a wide-eyed and smiling Lowe said after his first morning skate. “It’s something you think about and dream about for a long time. When it becomes real, it’s a pretty cool moment.”
“It’s exciting to get a young guy in,” head coach Bill Peters said. “I know he’s excited to be up with us, and we’ll get a good look at him.”
Lowe, a third-round (73rd overall) draft pick of the Canes in 2011, said he received news of his first NHL call-up after practice in Charlotte on Wednesday.
“Got a call into the office, and our coach Jeff Daniels had a smile on his face,” Lowe recalled. “I kind of hoped for good news, and it was good news.”
With that, he was on a plane bound for Philadelphia. There to greet him at the airport was his father Kevin, who played in 1,254 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers.
“It’s definitely awesome to have him here,” Lowe said, adding that his mom would be in attendance for his first NHL game, as well. “Everybody [else] is too far away. … I wish my dad’s mom was here, but it was just too last-minute for her to get here. Hopefully I get the chance to have another one for her to be in the house.”
Awaiting Lowe in the Hurricanes locker room was a collection of familiar faces, especially among the defense corps. The second-year pro bunked with Ryan Murphy last night (“I know him pretty well,” Lowe said) and gestured to Victor Rask’s stall in noting that he and the Canes’ rookie center were roommates in Charlotte last year.
“Everyone else who I don’t know too well are really good guys and easily approachable,” Lowe said. “Makes it easier, for sure.”
Lowe, who has appeared in 118 AHL games with Charlotte, will be the third defenseman and eighth player to play in his first NHL game with the Canes this season.
“It seems like it’s been two extremes. Lots at the beginning with young guys due to forwards injuries, and now we have some D injuries and some D-men we want to look at,” Peters said. “In the beginning, it was kind of force-fed, but now it’s that these guys have earned the opportunity for a look. We want to make sure we know what we have moving forward in our system with our depth that we have.”
Peters had the opportunity to see Lowe in action in person when he recently took a trip down to Charlotte to see the organization’s AHL affiliate.
“He played real well,” Peters said. “He had good gaps, he competed and he made a good first pass.”
All of which he’ll be counted on to do tonight. As Hurricanes assistant coach Steve Smith – who was also teammates with Kevin Lowe in the late 1980s in Edmonton – told Keegan today, hockey is hockey.
Tonight against Philadelphia, Lowe will play the left side with Murphy to his right, and Peters said he plans on giving the 22-year-old defenseman plenty of five-on-five ice time.
“We want to set him up to be successful, and I know he’ll be a good player here tonight,” Peters said.