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Tatar gets his chance

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar makes his season debut with the Red Wings tonight against Nashville, filling in for Henrik Zetterberg, who is nursing a lower-body injury. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
Tomas Tatar helped ring in 2011 by scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on New Year’s Eve.


Now, nearly 14 months later, the 21-year-old Czechoslovakian forward will have his second chance at the NHL when he makes his season debut for the Red Wings tonight against the Nashville Predators.

Tatar was recalled from Grand Rapids on Thursday shortly after the team declared that Henrik Zetterberg (lower-body) and Danny Cleary (knee) would sit out Friday’s contest.

Meanwhile, Tatar has had an outstanding season in Grand Rapids, eating up minutes in virtually every situation, including penalty kill and power play.

“He played well and he played hard for us. He's a threat at the American League level,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “When you come up here, you're on the fourth line, you've got to be good defensively, you've got to take care of the puck, you've got to get yourself in on the forecheck and hang on to the puck in the offensive zone. You do those things, we like you.”

Tatar will skate on the Wings’ fourth line with fellow rookies Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak. Forward Tomas Holmstrom is usually paired on the fourth line, but against the Predators, he’ll skate with Drew Miller and Darren Helm.

The Wings will be gunning for their 22nd straight home win tonight, extending their league-best home winning streak, which they set with Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Dallas.

For Tatar, the streak adds some pressure to his first league game of the season.

“I'm going to try my best, hit somebody, bring some energy, but for the game, there's other guys to make the game difference, not me,” he said. “It would be nice to continue on the streak. It would be nice for me to be part of this, a new NHL record. I'm going to try my best to help the guys win the game.”
 
In just his second pro season, Tatar has compiled 89 points with a plus-22 rating in 128 games. Because he turned pro at such an early age, he still has two full-seasons of eligibility in Grand Rapids before he runs out of options.

“My draft year was guys like Landon Ferraro, and they just got to Grand Rapids,” Tatar said. “This is my third year there. This should actually be my first year pro, if I didn't come so early. I'm still young. It's not like I have to be rushing something. I still have lots of years to develop and get better, and hopefully one day, I can be part of this team for a whole season.”

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