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From the Rink: Greenway has plenty of experience to lean on in NHL debut

Forward will skate on a line with Matt Cullen in first game Tuesday in Nashville

by Dan Myers @DanMyers /

NASHVILLE -- Wild forward Matt Cullen couldn't even wager a guess how many NHL debuts he's seen during his two-decade run in the National Hockey League.

Whatever that number is, it'll grow by one when Jordan Greenway hops over the boards for his first shift in the League tonight when the Wild plays the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

"I think they slot them next to the old guys to start," said Cullen, who at 41, is the NHL's most seasoned player.

Cullen's NHL debut came in the last millennium, but he still remembers it like it was yesterday. The emotions of finally reaching the highest level of hockey in the world can be overwhelming for some, but for Greenway, having a vet like Cullen next to him -- at least to start -- could be beneficial.

"It's the realization of a lifelong dream, so you can imagine the emotion that goes through," said Cullen, who was announced as a Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee Tuesday morning.. "Obviously for a kid that age, it's kind of a blur finishing your college season and jumping right into the NHL. I just think that excitement, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, a once in a lifetime accomplishment when you finally made it to the NHL. The excitement and emotion, it's through the roof.

Video: Greenway set for NHL debut in Nashville

"It's exciting, and I think No. 1 most important is just go play, play your own game. There's a lot of details that you pick up as you go along. But the first game is so exciting. I think for all of us it brings back a lot of memories. We're all here to support him, and hopefully he'll be a real big part of what we're doing here going forward. Tonight is just all about playing, having fun and putting your best foot out there."

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said he has a pretty standard message to any guy making his NHL debut. A player making his debut likely isn't going to retain much anyway, with the nerves and emotion of the day clouding anything too poetic.

Instead, Boudreau has found that keeping it simple typically works best.

"It's a fine line between inundating him with too much stuff right off the bat and just telling him to go out and have fun," Boudreau said. "It's his debut. Play hockey. He's been playing hockey his whole life. The principles are still the same, for the most part. So just play and have fun and don't worry about things."

In addition to Cullen, Greenway will also play on a line with Charlie Coyle and could slot into the power play as well. 

"He's been helping with everything. I was texting him last night asking random questions," Greenway said of Coyle. "It's just nice to have another guy who came from [Boston University] and plays a similar game. It definitely helps me."

Greenway is set to become the 80th player to make his NHL debut with the Wild all-time and the fourth to do so this season (Luke Kunin, Justin Kloos and Nick Seeler).

Greenway will be the 239th player (222nd skater) to appear in a regular-season game with the Wild. 

At 6-foot-6, he is tied with Devan Dubnyk, Martin Hanzal, Alex Henry and Andy Sutton as the fourth-tallest player in team history, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Only John Scott and Steve McKenna, each at 6-foot-8, and Derek Boogaard at 6-foot-7, have been taller.

Here are the projected lineups:


Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Nino Niederreiter

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Jordan Greenway - Matt Cullen - Charlie Coyle

Marcus Foligno - Joel Eriksson Ek - Daniel Winnik

Ryan Suter - Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin - Ryan Murphy

Nick Seeler - Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

Alex Stalock


Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson

Kevin Fiala - Kyle Turris - Craig Smith

Miikka Salomaki - Nick Bonino - Colton Sissons

Scott Hartnell - Mike Fisher - Ryan Hartman

Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis

Alexei Emelin - P.K. Subban

Anthony Bitetto - Matt Irwin

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros


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