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Blackhawks goalie Glass wins memorable NHL debut

32-year-old makes 42 saves after spending 12 seasons in AHL, KHL

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- Chicago Blackhawks goalie Jeff Glass admitted his NHL dream may have died a few times during seven seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League and six other seasons split between the American Hockey League and ECHL.

Persistence, however, won the day.

The 32-year-old Calgary native got his first NHL start on Friday, making 42 saves to help the Blackhawks defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in overtime at Rogers Place. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the third Blackhawks goaltender to make 40 or more saves in his NHL debut since the statistic was officially recorded in 1955-56, joining Gilles Meloche (42; 7-4 win against Vancouver Canucks on March 16, 1971) and Ed Belfour (45; 4-3 overtime loss against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 18, 1988).

"Of course, there were always times when there was doubt playing [in the KHL] when things weren't going well," Glass said "But I have a great support group, great family and friends and I've had coaches and trainers that have helped push me in the summers and during the season.

"Those are the people I think of now, when something like this happens, all the people that helped me get here."

Video: CHI@EDM: Glass turns aside tough wrister from McDavid

Included were his parents, Glen and Jane, his wife Allie and his 2-year-old daughter Lucy, who all made it to Edmonton for the game.

"(Having them watch me in the NHL) is something I've always dreamed of but never thought it would actually come true," he said.

Glass was recalled from Rockford of the AHL on Wednesday after Blackhawks No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

He found out he would start when the Blackhawks arrived in Edmonton in the wee hours on Friday morning following a 5-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Thursday.

Glass, the 89th pick of the 2004 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators, spent four seasons in Ottawa's system from 2005-09 with Binghamton of the AHL, also playing for Charlotte of the ECHL for part of his first season.

In 2009-10, he opted for the KHL, playing for six teams in eight seasons, including six different teams in five seasons. Glass spent three seasons with Astana Barys before one with Novosibirsk Sibir, splitting the next season between Moscow Spartak and CKSA Moscow, and one each with Tolyatti Lada and Dynamo Minsk.

After 218 games in the KHL, Glass returned to North America for the 2016-17 season, signing a professional try out with Toronto of the AHL, then signing another with Rockford before the Blackhawks signed him to a two-year contract.

Glass said after the win Friday that he had little time to reflect on realizing a dream after such a winding road.

"Not yet but I'm sure I will at some point," he said. "Right now, I'm just trying to help this team. We're in a playoff hunt. Our star goalie is out so my job is kind of to try to fill the gap right now. Tonight was just a step in the right direction. Hopefully we can continue this."

Glass said his time in the KHL helped him improve his game. It also included the odd adventure.

"My last year with Minsk I think we took one (flight) that was 13, 14 hours," he said. "We had to stop for gas because the plane didn't have enough to get there. We crossed like nine time zones, got there on the morning of game day and slept all of game day and woke up for the game."

Video: CHI@EDM: Glass kicks out pad to deny McDavid

Glass also learned to speak Russian.

"By no means am I fluent," he said. "I call it emergency Russian. If I'm ever in trouble, I can probably talk my way out of it."

After defeating the Oilers, Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, who is seven months older than Glass and played his 960th NHL game, sat across the dressing room watching Glass being interviewed.

The two were teammates and roommates with Canada 13 years ago at the 2005 World Junior Championship in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Canada went undefeated and won the gold medal.

"An impressive determination by him to stick with it and to come tonight and play the way he did," Seabrook said. "I didn't know what to expect from a 32-year-old rookie, first game in the NHL. We were all trying to play as hard as we could and it changed tides and he bailed us out a few times. It was pretty impressive to see what he was able to do in the first period (18 saves), really kept us in it and gave us a chance to get going.

"I was trying to work as hard as I could, play as hard as I could, like everybody was, trying to help him out. Watching him around the room, I was looking at him and it didn't seem like he was nervous. I guess he's 32 and he's played a lot of hockey.

"We're excited for him but most importantly, he was a big reason we got the two points tonight."

Patrick Kane, who scored 50 seconds into overtime, said it was Glass's performance that made his day.

"I think we all know Glasser pretty well," Kane said. "He's the nicest guy in the world. Couldn't say a bad word about the guy and I don't think he would hurt anyone. He's just a great goaltender.

"For him to kind of be a journeyman, to wait this long for his first career NHL start, to be close to home for him, the way he played tonight, you can't really write a better script. So, got to be ecstatic for him, we were all jacked up after the game. Probably happier than a normal win in the regular season just because he was in net."

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