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Two debut

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
With an upper body injury to veteran defenseman Steve Staios and a lingering groin injury to goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, the Islanders recalled two players on emergency loan from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, early Thursday morning. Both will play tonight against the Dallas Stars at Nassau Coliseum.

Rookie defenseman Calvin de Haan is set to make his National Hockey League debut, while goaltender Kevin Poulin will receive his first NHL start of the season.

“We had a lot of kids come up last year and they played well,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “A lot of these guys had great camps. They were right on the cusp of making our hockey team right out of camp. So if they’re playing well, they’ll get ice time.”

Calvin de Haan #24 of the New York Islanders checks Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on September 23, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/Getty Images)
de Haan is ecstatic about making his NHL debut, though he knows he’ll have to fight through some nerves.

“It’s a dream come true,” de Haan said. “I grew up watching hockey and dreaming of playing in the NHL one day. It’s finally my chance and I’m going to do my best to run away with it… I think I just have to play simple my first couple shifts. I may play 30 seconds or I could play 30 minutes, I don’t know. But I’m just going to do what I do best and not try to be someone I’m not.”

In 22 games for the Sound Tigers, the rookie blue-liner has recorded 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) and though the Carp, Ontario native is used to putting up bigger numbers when he was playing with his junior club, the Oshawa Generals, he said he still feels confident in his game.

“It took some time for myself to adjust to the pro game, but I’ve been playing pretty well lately I think and it’s been a lot of fun,” de Haan said. “I like to think I’m a puck-moving d-man, chipping in on offense. My stats in Bridgeport are inflated right now, but I’ve been doing my best to move the puck up to the forwards and play a solid defensive game.”

Capuano referred to de Haan as a poised defenseman before adding, “He’s a smart kid, he’s got great vision and he moves the puck well.” But Capuano cautioned that he wants all his defensemen to play a smart hockey game against a physical Stars team.

“With the defense as a whole and with Calvin, when we go back to get pucks, we have to make sure we make a good first past,” Capuano said. “That was the one area early on in the season that to me, was part of our game that we need to work on. I thought as of late, we’ve done a better job moving the puck to our forwards, trying to make crisp passes to try to get out of our own end and get some speed through the neutral zone. That’s the one area, hopefully Calvin can do that.”

Moving further down the depth chart to the last line of defense, the player who stands between flying pucks and an open net, is Poulin. The goaltender, who already received one recall this season but didn’t get into any game action, isn’t nervous one bit.

“Last year, I never played in this league and it was really stressful, but this year it’s just another hockey game,” Poulin said. “You want to win it, you want to play your best and that’s what I’m going to do.”

The netminder made his NHL debut Jan. 6, 2011, playing 53:43 of relief action, where he made all 19 saves he faced. He went on to play in 10 games for the Islanders, where he recorded a 4-2-1 record, a .924 save percentage and a 2.44 goals against average.

Kevin Poulin keeps an eye on the game action in front of the net during the second period against the Connecticut Whale at The Arena at Harbor Yard on November 2, 2011 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Capuano liked what he saw from Poulin last season.

“He’s a competitive kid,” Capuano said. “He’s got a swagger to him. He’s got an attitude about him. He wants to be that guy. I really like the attitude that Kevin brings. He’s competitive in the net. He’s aggressive when he’s in the net. So I look forward to his return tonight. He’ll give us a good game.”

But Poulin’s season was cut short after hitting a rut in the ice during a pregame warmup, requiring the Montreal native to have surgery. Since then, Poulin has recorded a 6-7-0 record in 13 games for the Sound Tigers this season, recording a .892 save percentage and 3.37 goals against average.

Though his stats don’t reflect the stand-out rookie campaign he had last year, Poulin said he’s getting back to form.

“The first part was not what I expected after eight months of recovery,” Poulin said of his start to the 2011-12 season. “But the second half was good. I felt good on the ice. I saw the puck. The team played great in front of me; so I won some games.”

Feeling confident, Poulin’s ready to give the team a chance to win.

He said, “I’m looking forward to make my season debut.”

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