It’s a big day for Curtis McKenzie. He’ll make his NHL debut tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Philadelphia Flyers at American Airlines Center.
“It’s pretty exciting,” McKenzie said. “Lindy [Ruff] told me yesterday I was going to be playing. I was kind of speechless at first, I couldn’t really grasp it. Finally getting a chance to get in the first NHL game is a pretty big moment to remember.”
Family and friends will be on hand to share that memory. His parents and grandparents are coming in from British Columbia.
"They were scrambling for flights and hotels and everything,” McKenzie said.
Asked if he was picking up the tab?
“Yeah, I got the bill,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie and his family aren’t the only ones excited about his NHL debut. So is Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who wants to see what the big forward can do.
“I just think it’s such a special moment. I want to see him play,” Ruff said. “He’s had a good camp. He’s worked hard for this opportunity, and I think every player remembers their first game. This is a big night for him.”
McKenzie, a sixth-round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, has rocketed up the Stars’ depth chart since turning pro last season after a four-year career at Miami University in Ohio. He won the AHL’s Rookie of the Year award in 2013-14 after registering 65 points (27 goals, 38 assists) in 75 games with the Texas Stars. He picked up 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in 21 playoff games as Texas won the Calder Cup.
He was impressive in training camp and preseason, earning himself an early season call-up when Valeri Nichushkin went out with a groin/hip injury. There’s nothing fancy about the 6-3, 210-pound forward’s game.
“He is physical, he skates well, and he goes to the net hard,” said Ruff. “He fits the way we want to play. He can make plays. He is a guy that is really determined when it comes to one-on-one battles.”
“I’m just a hard-working player,” McKenzie said. “I like to go to the net and I play with a bit of an edge. That’s just my style of game, hard-nosed.”
And that’s what he hopes to bring tonight when the Stars take on the Flyers.
“I’m just going to go out there and work as hard as I can,” McKenzie said, “and try to enjoy it, as well.”
With McKenzie in tonight, it appears that Colton Sceviour will be the healthy scratch among the forward group. Jamie Oleksiak will be the scratch on defense.
Kari Lehtonen gets the start in goal for the Stars. Steve Mason will be in net for the Flyers.
Quotable: Flyers coach Craig Berube on the Stars
“Their speed and transition game (stood out to me). Our team tonight needs to make them play in their own end, own zone. And to do that, we need to shoot the hockey puck. If you make them play facing their net all night, you’ll be in better shape. Otherwise, if you want to make plays and turn the puck over, they’re gone. They’re fast and they’ve got D that can jump up and play. They’re a real good attack team with the speed, two lines that have very good skill. You’re going to get that third line that bangs the body and they all skate well. That’s what stands out to me.”
Who: Philadelphia Flyers at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Curtis McKenzie
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Kevin Connauton – Patrik Nemeth
Scratched: D Jamie Oleksiak, RW Colton Sceviour
Injured: RW Valeri Nichushkin (groin/hip), D Sergei Gonchar (ankle)
LTIR: Rich Peverley (heart)
Flyers projected lineup
Michael Raffl – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Brayden Schenn – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Wayne Simmonds
R.J. Umberger – Sean Couturier – Matt Read
Zac Rinaldo – Chris VandeVelde - Blair Jones
Nicklas Grossmann – Mark Streit
Andrew MacDonald – Nick Schultz
Michael Del Zotto – Luke Schenn
Injured: Braydon Coburn (lower body), Vincent Lecavalier (lower body), Chris Pronger (post-concussion syndrome), Kimmo Timonen (blood clots), Ryan White (groin).
Scratched: Jason Akeson.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.