RALEIGH, N.C. – Mark McNeill had dozed off while he was watching television when he got the call from the Blackhawks, letting him know he’d been called up.
So did he think he was dreaming?
“I think I did, yeah,” McNeill said with a smile. “I was a little surprised. But I’m thrilled to be here.”
McNeill will make his NHL debut — with mom, dad, brother and sister in attendance — when the Blackhawks face the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night. McNeill was on a six-game point streak when he was recalled on Monday — fellow forward Jiri Sekac is ill and did not make the trip. For McNeill, who was part of a 2011 NHL draft that turned out very well for the Blackhawks, finally getting this opportunity does feel like a dream.
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It could also be a little nerve-wracking, so McNeill is ready for that part of it, too.
“I think it’ll help if I throw the body around early and get those nerves out of the way,” said McNeill, who will play on the fourth line with Dennis Rasmussen and Richard Panik.
Coach Joel Quenneville gave McNeill the same message he does any new player.
“Play to your strengths, keep it simple,” Quenneville said. “We want to make sure you pressure the puck, keep it as long as you can and basically get to the net and put pucks to the net and hang around.”
McNeill has watched a lot of different guys get called up before him over these last few seasons. He said he just kept working until his got his chance. He’s been on a run lately, recording four goals and three assists as part of that six-game point streak with the Rockford IceHogs.
“The whole team’s playing great, and there’s some good chemistry with [Marko] Dano and [Ryan] Hartman,” McNeill said. “Moving the puck around really well, creating havoc in the offensive zone and we’ve started putting the puck in as of late.”
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McNeill has waited a long time for this day. He’s going to try and take advantage of it.
“It’s going to be a dream come true,” he said. “It’s something you think about growing up as a kid. That day’s finally here and I’m really excited to be here.”
- Jonathan Toews left morning skate early but he will play against Carolina.
- Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson did not participate in morning skate but they will play vs. the Hurricanes.
- Corey Crawford gets the start.