With forwards Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe sidelined due to upper-body injuries, the Carolina Hurricanes are in search of some physicality in their lineup.
Enter Valentin Zykov, who was recalled on Wednesday afternoon from the Charlotte Checkers and will make his NHL debut with the Canes tonight. The 21-year-old Russian winger measures in at 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds and isn't afraid to venture into the dirty areas of the ice.
"They tell me he's playing hard. He's at the net," head coach Bill Peters said. "I think he'll come in and give us some energy. He should be physical. He's got a heavy shot, so hopefully we see that on display."
Derek Ryan knows what kind of player Zykov can be. Early in the Checkers' season, Ryan centered Zykov and McGinn. In 55 games played with Charlotte this season, Zykov ranks tied for second on the team in goals (15) and third on the team in points (30).
"He's a big body. He has a really good shot. He's the kind of guy who is pretty versatile in that he can get in on the forecheck, be physical and get the puck back for us," Ryan said. "He's good down low and good at protecting the puck. He's a pretty all-around player and definitely can score some goals as well with his good shot."
Video: Valentin Zykov: "It's very exciting"
Zykov, who follows Martin Frk as the most recent former QMJHLer to make his NHL debut with the Hurricanes, will slot in on Jordan Staal's right wing with Sebastian Aho opposite. That's a line that can not only create offense but also generate sustained, grinding pressure.
"I think both him and Jordo down low will be pretty hard to contain. I think that will be a tough line," Ryan said. "Staal and Aho have been real good down low to begin with, so putting Zykov in there will really give them some O-zone time. I think they'll create a lot down low in the offensive zone. If he gets the puck in the slot or gets a little bit of time with the puck, he can make a play or a nice shot, too."
Zykov, who was one of the last players off the ice after today's morning skate, was reserved in speaking with the media but expressed excitement for the opportunity to play in the NHL.
"He'll be a little bit nervous early, I'm sure, and excited but then he should settle in," Peters said.
"First game is always a bit nervous, but I need to remember it's the same game," he said. "It's still hockey."