Alain Nasreddine is in his 11th year of professional hockey. However, Saturday’s game against the Devils will make him feel like a rookie again.
The 30-year-old defenseman will make his Pittsburgh Penguins debut when New Jersey visits Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.
“I was looking for a break maybe here or there. Just to get the call, whether you’re 30 or 20, it’s the same feeling that I had when I played my first game,” he said. “It’s been three years since I last played in the NHL and I am a little anxious and a little nervous, but I can’t wait for [Saturday’s] game. After the first couple shifts, I should be fine.”
Nasreddine was recalled from the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to bring some stability to the Penguins defensive corps, especially with Brooks Orpik still out of the lineup. Orpik will finish his three-game suspension Saturday and return to active duty on Sunday.
“That’s always been our strong point down in Wilkes-Barre – defensive play and the goalies doing a good job too,” he said. “It all starts with defense and goalies.”
Nasreddine has played 18 games in the NHL during stops with Montreal, Chicago and the New York Islanders, but has yet to record a point. Nevertheless, he brings a steady, veteran presence to the blue line.
“We know what he’s capable of doing,” said Penguins coach Michel Therrien, who coached Nasreddine the past couple of years in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. “We know his weakness and where he’s on top of his game. We make sure we’re going to put him in a position to succeed.”
Nasreddine, the Baby Penguins’ captain, had 12 assists and 44 penalty minutes in 61 games this year with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He earned his way back to the NHL with hard work and leadership.
“I didn’t steal it,” he said. “I have been in the minors a lot; I have played pro 11 years. To get a break like this at 30, it’s awesome. I want to make the most of it.”
He comes to a familiar environment as the Penguins’ coaching staff and a majority of the players spent time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the past couple seasons.
“It makes the transition easier,” he said. “I think I know everybody from playing with them before in Wilkes-Barre or on other teams I have been on. It’s fun; it makes it easy for me.”