March 12, 2012 2:59 PM
Bobby Sanguinetti’s opportunity has finally arrived.
As a reward for his stellar second half, the Carolina Hurricanes have recalled the defenseman for the first time in his two seasons with the organization. Sanguinetti, a 24-year-old in his fourth professional campaign, will head to New York to play his first NHL game since Dec. 19, 2009, against the Rangers on Tuesday.
“I can’t really explain it,” said Sanguinetti of his reaction to hearing the news on Monday morning. “It’s a little bit nervous and a little bit excited. It’s been a long time coming and a lot of hard work, so it’s good to see that hard work pay off.
“It won’t be my first NHL game, but it feels like it because it’s been so long.”
Though it’s been a lengthy and often agonizing wait for Sanguinetti, things couldn’t have unfolded much more perfectly. The New Jersey native is set to play in front of family and friends against the team he grew up watching, not to mention the team that selected him in the first round of the 2006 draft before handing him his NHL debut more than two years ago.
“It just fuels the fire even more,” he said.
Sanguinetti’s one goal, two assist performance in the Checkers’ 4-0 win over Chicago on Sunday gave him sole possession of second on the team in scoring with 35 points (8g, 27a) in 49 games – 22 of which have come on the power play. Including an 11-game point streak that marked the longest by an AHL defenseman in three years, he has 29 points in 33 games since returning from a broken foot on Dec. 11.
“The biggest thing the coaches have been telling me is to be consistent and make sure I’m competing every night. (Coach Jeff Daniels) told me that he was really happy with the way I’ve been playing lately and told me to keep playing the game that got me here.”
Prior to his recent resurgence, Sanguinetti had played just 66 of a possible 126 games with Charlotte due to injury, most notably a hip issue that required him to miss most of last season. Recovering from those problems to play his longest uninterrupted stretch of hockey since coming over in a 2010 draft-day trade has been a factor in his strong season.
“It’s a combination of health and confidence,” he said. “When I came back (from the broken foot), the coaches had a lot of confidence to give me big minutes, and that’s when pucks started going in for me.”
Due to the Hurricanes’ crowded situation on defense, the Hurricanes’ recall of Sanguinetti marks the first time they’ve summoned a player who didn’t start the season up top. Though he’s clearly been the top option for months, Sanguinetti was left to wonder if his turn would ever come. It seemed as though he might have missed his chance entirely when the team chose to keep fellow defensemen Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek at the trade deadline.
“You try not to look into the numbers so much, but it seemed like I was on the outside at the start and even in the middle of the season,” he said. “I always felt like my game could get me back to where I needed to be.”
An injury to Spacek in Sunday’s game at Florida finally opened a spot for Sanguinetti, though the team could have opted to slide forward/defenseman hybrid Derek Joslin back to the blueline rather than make a recall. That makes this a regular recall rather than an emergency recall, meaning Sanguinetti would not necessarily have to come back to Charlotte when Spacek is ready to return.
The regular recall also means that the clock will start ticking on his waiver status. After 10 games played or 30 days on the NHL roster – whichever comes first – he would need to clear waivers in order to return for the Checkers’ playoff run. Carolina only has 13 games remaining, making it doubtful that the team would risk losing him on waivers in order to play its final few contests.
The move leaves Charlotte with just five healthy defensemen, including professional tryout signing Brandon Gentile. Justin Krueger and Rasmus Rissanen remain out with upper-body injuries, though Rissanen may have a chance to return for the team’s next game on Friday. The Checkers reassigned Chris Murray, now recovered from an upper-body injury of his own, to ECHL Florida on Monday morning.