Riley Nash won't know until game time tonight if he'll be playing his second NHL game.
That's fine. He's more than willing to wait.
The Canes center made his NHL debut Wednesday against the Phoenix Coyotes, being recalled from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) on an emergency basis when Tim Brent was injured Tuesday in practice. Brent was at today's morning skate, but coach Kirk Muller said the decision to play Nash or Brent would not be made until before the game.
Nash, 22, had 13 minutes of ice time in his debut and centered a line in the third period with Eric Staal and Drayson Bowman on the wings. After suffering a gash on his lip Tuesday night in the Checkers' game, he took another over his left eye on his first shift Wednesday. But no complaints.
"It was awesome, 22 years in the making," Nash said. "It's a dream come true. I really enjoyed it."
Nash said when he came off the ice after his first shift Canes trainer Pete Friesen told him he would need stitches over the eye.
"I told him, 'Any way you can stop it from bleeding without leaving the game, I'm all in favor of that,'" Nash said. "They were able to do a pretty good job on it and I was able to stay in for the rest of the game."
A storybook ending would have been for Nash to score a goal and help the Canes win. That was not to be as the Coyotes rallied in the third for a 4-3 victory. But Nash was in for some important minutes in the final period.
Nash, a native of Consort, Alberta, was all set to take an early morning flight Wednesday for the Christmas break. But Checkers coach Jeff Daniels told him Tuesday night he might need to rearrange it, that he might be needed in Raleigh.
Nash said he got the news at 10 a.m. Wednesday that he was being recalled and would playing his first game for the Canes, saying, "It's probably one of the better Christmas presents I've ever gotten."
Nash said getting a chance to play with Staal was "pretty cool, a neat experience." He said the more he played, the better he felt as the game wore on. It also was a matter of Muller showing he had confidence in Nash.
"It shows he can trust you and has faith in you," Nash said. "That helps your whole game out, making plays out there and not being scared, not being soft. It definitely felt good."
Nash had some problems on draws, going 3-10 and losing four straight late in the game. But he got in some work today with Rod Brind'Amour during the skate, saying, "It's obviously an area everyone wants to improve on."
Nash was a first-round draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers in 2007 (21st overall) and opted to play college hockey at Cornell for three years. He was traded by the Oilers to the Canes during the 2010 NHL draft and spent last season with the Checkers.
Nash had a good preseason training camp with the Canes this year and was the last player sent to the Checkers. He admits his play in Charlotte this season "hasn't been great offensively" but said he believed he had been pretty solid defensively.
"It's always disappointing when you get cut from a team but you've got to kind of take it as motivation," Nash said. "Learn from it and work on those things they see that aren't quite there yet.
"It just takes time. We're still pretty young guys. I'm not in any rush to get here and say I want to be here tomorrow. I'll just try to enjoy the moment right now."