Penguin forward Chris Minard scored his first goal of the season in Pittsburgh’s 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers at Mellon Arena on Sunday. Coincidentally, it was Minard’s first game after changing his number to 14.
Minard switched from number 32 to 14, the number he wore in the American Hockey League, to accommodate veteran goaltender Mathieu Garon. Garon was acquired Saturday from the Edmonton Oilers the day before in exchange for goalie Dany Sabourin, forward Ryan Stone and a fourth round draft choice in 2011.
“I didn’t have to give it up, they asked me, and I chose to,” Minard said. “I wasn’t a big fan of 32 anyway; 14 was available so I took it.”
Perhaps the new number gave Minard the bit of luck he needed to finally get a goal this season. Minard netted the important game-winner in the first period of play.
Petr Sykora passed the puck from behind the Rangers’ net right onto the tape of Minard’s stick. Minard one-timed it from the slot past the right shoulder of Henrick Lundqvist for the goal.
“It’s just a relief to finally get one this year,” Minard said. “That was a good play by Sykkie.”
Minard is in his third stint of play with the Penguins this season after being called up from Wilkes Barre/Scranton Jan. 9. In 31 games with the Baby Penguins, Minard boasted the second most points on the team with 41 (26G-15A). His 26 goals are still a team-best. In four games with the Penguins since being recalled, it was only a matter of time before he netted one.
“He got some chances the last few games and the puck was not going through,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “I liked the way he was playing. He got chances and was playing well defensively. When you get chances at this level, a player will eventually get those results.”
There are many different roads into the NHL. Minard took a longer route than most. He signed with the Penguins as a free agent on July 12, 2007, after stops in the Ontario Hockey League, the East Coast Hockey League, the Central Hockey League and the AHL.
It’s been a long road. I’ve played in a lot of leagues. I’m here, and I’m just trying to prove that I can stay here. - Chris Minard
“It’s been a long road,” Minard said. “I’ve played in a lot of leagues. I’m here, and I’m just trying to prove that I can stay here.”
Minard believes the two ingredients to staying in the NHL are hard work and having people that believe in him. The 6-foot-1, Ontario native played seven seasons in the OHL, starting in 1997. He then jumped between the ECHL, CHL and AHL. During the 2005 work stoppage in the NHL, he helped Alaska win the ECHL Championship and tallied a league-best 14 goals in 22 playoff games.
During his 2006-2007 season in the AHL, he led Lowell with 49 points (32G-17A) and ranked third in the AHL with eight game-winning goals. Hopefully this will be the first of many game-winning goals in the NHL for No. 14.
“He is starting to feel a lot more comfortable out there,” Therrien said. “(Sunday) he scored a big goal for us. In those type of checking games, every goal is a big one.”