Matt Hussey and Michel Ouellet went from the AHL to the NHL on Tuesday. And, the two rookies had little time to adjust.
In the afternoon, they were added to the Penguins’ NHL roster from the organization’s top minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In the evening, they skated in Pittsburgh’s 5-4 win over Washington at Mellon Arena.
“I am very happy to be here,” Hussey said. “When I got the call up, I was pretty excited to get that first game of the year in the books. [Tuesday] night was good."
Neither Hussey nor Ouellet registered a point, but both skated hard and provided a jolt of energy to the Penguins.
“For sure. I am just happy to come here to play and do my best to help the team win,” Ouellet said.
The two didn’t even get a chance to practice with their new teammates Tuesday. They had to wait until 12:01 p.m. for Rico Fata and Konstantin Koltsov, who were assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, to clear waivers and free up two roster spots. The Penguins’ morning skate was well over by then.
“It’s almost a little better that way because you don’t have too much time to think about it,” Hussey said. “Playing [on a line] with Mario [Lemieux] and [Mark] Recchi, that was fun. They will get you the puck and they will get you your chances.”
Hussey, who played three games in Pittsburgh in 2003-04, at least had some idea of what to expect, while it was Ouellet’s NHL debut.
“My first shift, I was kind of nervous,” Ouellet said. “I was not patient with the puck. The more the game went on, I was taking my time and seeing the play and realizing what was going on more and feeling better on the ice.”
Nevertheless, the two rookies weren’t completely in alien territory. The dressing room was filled with familiar names like Maxime Talbot, Matt Murley, Erik Christensen and Ryan Whitney. Those four rookies played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year along with Ouellet and Hussey.
“I think it helped me [Tuesday] adjust to how to handle the game,” Ouellet said. “They told me what to do and pretty much controlled how I was feeling.”
Ouellet and Hussey helped propel the Baby Penguins to a franchise-best 16-0-1 start this year. Regardless, they want to stay in Pittsburgh permanently.
“Exactly. I want to stay here as long as possible,” Hussey said. “I am going to work at it and keep improving every day.”
“This is my fourth year of pro [hockey],” Ouellet said. “I started in the East Coast [Hockey League] and spent the last two years in [Wilkes-Barre/Scranton], so now I get a chance to prove what I can do here. I am going to elevate my game, too. I am going to take that next step to play at this level.”
The two hope to continue their adaptation to the NHL level as the Penguins begin a two-game road trip in Florida on Friday.