While NHL recalls are always too short for those who ply their trade in the minor leagues, every now and then, a player can get a pleasant surprise.
Such was the case for Checkers forward Zach Boychuk, who headed to Raleigh for what he thought would be a short stay following a minor injury to the Hurricanes’ Anthony Stewart. That was back on Oct. 25, bringing the duration of his recall up to 27 days before he rejoined Charlotte on Monday.
“It was awesome,” he said of his most recent NHL experience. “I was expecting to go up for one game to fill in for Stewart, but one game turned into two and two turned into a month.”
Even after Stewart returned to health – his injury did in fact keep him sidelined for just one contest – Boychuk kept finding ways to get into the lineup, even if only for a few minutes. He dressed for all 13 of the Hurricanes’ games during his recall and earned 2 assists while seeing his ice time swing from as much as 15 minutes against the New York Rangers on Nov. 11 to as little as 3:54 just two games later as the Canes hosted Philadelphia.
“It definitely varied depending on how the game was going,” he said. “You might play a good bit in the first but then not nearly as much after that if the game was close.”
During that game against the Rangers, Boychuk was promoted to Eric Staal’s line and, although he didn’t score, said that he felt good about his performance. Overall, Hurricanes coaches seemed to agree, giving him positive feedback upon delivering news of his reassignment after Sunday’s win over Toronto.
“They just told me that they’re really happy with my game and want me to go down with a good attitude and keep working hard like I always do,” he said. “I felt a lot more comfortable up there this time than I did at training camp. I think scoring a few goals down here, you bring that excitement and confidence with you.”
The Checkers are hoping he holds on to that upon his return to the AHL, where he recorded 6 points (4g, 2a) in the season’s first seven games. His return, along with that of Zac Dalpe, should provide a boost for a team that’s been looking to score more goals.
“I’m here to bring a positive attitude, and I think with me and Dalpe both being here that we can do some things on offense,” said Boychuk. “I know the team’s been playing pretty well, so I just want to fit in and help them as much as I can.”
Checkers coach Jeff Daniels, who was clearly displeased with his team despite picking up three out of a possible four points against Rockford last weekend, said that he was happy with the team’s practice on Tuesday, which was held just prior to the team getting on the bus bound for Norfolk. However, he said that some of his forwards will still need to pick up their offensive pace.
“Even without Dalps and Chucky, I think we’ve got enough guys that can score,” he said. “The problem has been capitalizing on our chances.”
Asked what he could do as a coach to remedy that problem, Daniels said that there were a few things that could help his players get out of their funks.
“The only thing is that you don’t want them to take that frustration into their game,” he said. “You can tell them to pretend like they’ve already got 10 goals or something like that, because there’s no use in going out there already feeling down on yourself on your first shift.”
Daniels said that defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, who did not play in either game against Rockford due to injury, would make the trip to Norfolk but was questionable for the game on Wednesday. Goalie Mike Murphy, who left Sunday’s game after the first period due to injury, is available to play if called upon. Both players practiced normally on Tuesday.
Cedric McNicoll, who has been out since suffering an injury on Oct. 28, resumed skating with the team on Tuesday in a non-contact jersey but is at least another week away from game action, according to Daniels.
Lines from Tuesday's practice can be found below.