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Poturalski to Make NHL Debut in Minnesota

23-year-old forward leads Hurricanes' AHL club in scoring

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Andrew Poturalski is sporting quite the shiner.

Poturalski was cut with a high stick in his last game with the Charlotte Checkers, his right eye now black and blue and a bit swollen as a result.

In a sense, it's the perfect hockey appearance for his National Hockey League debut.

"Maybe they'll mistake me for a tough guy out there," joked Poturalski, who officially measures in at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds.

Poturalski, along with veteran forward Bryan Bickell, were recalled on April 3. After getting word of the call-ups the night prior, they joined the Hurricanes in Minnesota on Monday.

"We were definitely really excited to get here. We talked a little bit the night before," Poturalski said. "We're both really excited, and hopefully we get a win tonight."

Poturalski is in his first full professional season after completing his collegiate career in 2015-16 at the University of New Hampshire. The 23-year-old forward helped the Hurricanes capture their first title since 2009 at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., in September. He then had a positive showing in training camp before being assigned to Charlotte prior to the Canes' final preseason game. Poturalski leads all Checkers this season with 32 assists and 48 points, having played in all of the team's 69 games.

"He's playing real well. He played real well on their recent road trip. One of our assistant GMs was there and had real positive feedback on him," head coach Bill Peters said. "We've got to make sure we get him enough ice time and an opportunity. Once he settles down and plays, he'll be fine."

"The AHL has done a lot for me. It's helped me develop a lot as a player," Poturalski said. "Ulf [Samuelsson] has helped me a ton down there, and the guys are great. Being down there for a year has helped me a ton, and hopefully I can make the next step."

The step from college hockey to professional hockey was a noted adjustment for Poturalski, who was named a first-team All-American (East) and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award in 2015-16.

"It's definitely a huge jump from the college game. There's not a lot of time and space out in the pro game," Poturalski said. "The pace of the game is really fast. I think that was my biggest adjustment, and also trying to become a two-way player."

Easing the transition into an NHL locker room late in a season is the presence of a number of a familiar faces. Poturalski has already shared the ice in Charlotte with Bickell, Brock McGinn (who are his linemates tonight), Derek Ryan, Klas Dahlbeck and Matt Tennyson. Poturalski, a native of Williamsville, NY, is seated in the locker room to the right of Lee Stempniak, who also hails from western New York. And then there's Brett Pesce, a fellow Wildcat.

"Brett's been great. He's helped me out a lot through the whole process, even signing here," Poturalski said. "He's been a good friend. It's good that he's here."

There will also be some familiar faces in the stands at Xcel Energy Center when Poturalski dons the No. 57 white sweater for the Hurricanes.

"I've got my parents and girlfriend in town. It's been a fun experience the past couple of days. A lot of people reached out to me," he said. "I think once those first couple of shifts, it's probably going to sink in then. It's been awesome, and I can't wait."

"I know he's excited and I'm excited, and a win today would definitely be special," Bickell said.

Shiner and all, Poturalski is set to make his NHL debut with the Hurricanes. Memories for a lifetime, no doubt.

"I still remember my first game," Bickell said. "I just told him you've got to get through that first period, the jitters and stuff like that. I know he's a pretty calm, cool, collected guy, and he's been a big part down in Charlotte. … Those first couple of shifts will be nerve-wracking, but I can give him some wisdom and talk him through it."

"Just that first shift is going to be fun. I don't know if I'll remember anything. My adrenaline will be going. It's everything you worked for as a kid, and finally it comes," he said. "I'm really excited for it."

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