There will be no easing his way back into NHL action for Oilers winger Luke Gazdic.
The 25-year-old will make his season debut tonight in Dallas after off-season shoulder surgery delayed the start of his 2014-15 campaign.
As a former Stars prospect, Gazdic is familiar with Dallas' marquee body-bangers Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt, and fully expects to collide with them at some point tonight in his return to action.
"I know them both well and have played with both of them," Gazdic said of his former teammates with the AHL's Texas Stars. "They're both pretty hard-nosed players who only play with one gear, so I wouldn't expect them to play with any less whether I'm in the lineup or not."
Gazdic will make his season debut on a line with rookie centre Leon Draisaitl and third-year winger Nail Yakupov. Draisaitl was on the receiving end of a hit from behind courtesy Chicago Blackhawks veteran defenceman Michal Rosival last game, and Gazdic said those incidents won't happen again without consequences as long he's on the ice.
"I can't see too many guys wanting to take an extra shot at him," said Gazdic, who had one fight (vs. Toronto's Frazer McLaren) during his five-game AHL conditioning stint earlier this season. "I'm sure I'll have his back tonight."