LAKE PLACID, N.Y.
-- If any player here at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp has extra motivation to get out on the ice, it's Kyle Palmieri
That's what happens when you spend six months on the sideline.
Palmieri has been knocking off the rust, but through two exhibition games against Russia, he's been one of the U.S. team's best forwards with 2 goals and an assist in a pair of wins -- not bad for someone who hadn't played any competitive hockey since February.
"There was a little bit of an adjustment period, but that built-up energy and being anxious to play again and just wanting to get back out on the ice really helped me out, got me hungry to play these few games," Palmieri told NHL.com.
U.S. coach Dean Blais said he's been pleasantly surprised by Palmieri's play, considering his long layoff.
"Right away we saw he was in pretty good shape, ready to go," Blais told NHL.com. "It was the timing-type things, and the physical part of it we were worried about, nothing else."
Palmieri was having a solid campaign with the U.S. National Team Development Program last season, but issues cropped up during the Five Nations Tournament in Sweden in February. When the team returned home, Palmieri was booted from the program for a violation of team rules. He then watched as a number of his teammates from the U.S. program won the gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship in April.
The dismissal didn't hurt his standing in the eyes of NHL scouts, as they focused more on his 15 goals and 30 points in 33 games, as well as his tenacity and grit. The Anaheim Ducks
selected him No. 26 in the 2009 Entry Draft.
That was good, but being back on the ice -- even in the heat of August -- is where Palmieri believes he belongs.
And, he hasn't looked out of place in the first two games against Russia. He had a goal and an assist in the opener Tuesday, and had another goal Wednesday in a 6-1 victory. He's shown great speed and creativity every time he's stepped on the ice.
"It's great to be back out there," Palmieri said. "A few of my (USNTDP) teammates are out there, too. I feel right at home. That first game I had to do a little adjusting, going from shinny hockey to that was a little tough, but I think I settled in pretty well."
A natural center, Palmieri has been placed on the wings by Blais in these two games. On Tuesday, he played right wing on a line with center Philip McRae
and left wing Robbie Czarnik; Wednesday, he was on the left side playing with center Jordan Schroeder
and right wing Chris Bourque
"He's a sniper," said Blais. "We're trying to find guys who can complement him. We know he can put the puck in the net -- some of the other things in his game he has to work on and get better at -- but he's a guy that you can put him with two pretty good players, and when he gets chances, his eyes get as big as silver dollars when he gets in front of the net."
"It's great to be back out there. A few of my (USNTDP) teammates are out there, too. I feel right at home. That first game I had to do a little adjusting, going from shinny hockey to that was a little tough, but I think I settled in pretty well." -- Kyle Palmieri
Palmieri tried out for the national junior team last year, but didn't make the cut. He said that experience has helped him as he tries to make the team for the 2010 World Junior Championship in Saskatchewan.
"I have to get bigger and stronger to compete with the older guys," he said. "Coming into this it's more about trying to be a team player."
That's why he hasn't minded being juggled around the ice. Being available to be juggled is the most important thing.
"It felt great," said Palmieri. "Putting on the USA jersey again is an honor."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.