Thursday night was another hockey night in Glendale, Arizona.
The hometown Phoenix Coyotes faced off against division rival Dallas Stars.
Besides the fact that this was the last home game of the season for the Coyotes, there seemed to be nothing special about the match. The Coyotes had already been eliminated from playoff contention, whereas Dallas had already clinched a playoff spot.
But there was something different about the night.
There was a buzz in the air; a palpable energy you couldn't help but notice. From the fans in the stands to my fellow journalists in the media lounge, it was there.
The reason for the buzz was simple.
The team’s No. 1 (3rd overall) draft pick of 2007, Kyle Turris, was about to appear in his first action with the Coyotes, dressed in full uniform.
Turris, for his part, was of course excited to see his first NHL action just days after his University of Wisconsin Badgers were knocked out of the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament.
After his first practice with his new teammates on Tuesday, he expressed his amazement to reporters at the chain of events that took him from classes at the university on Monday to preparing for his first NHL game the next day.
"It's been crazy I mean mixed emotion obviously from losing the final eight to the next morning talking here and the next night I'm in here."
"So it's been crazy and I'm so excited I can't even talk right now."
During the practice Turris centered a line with Coyotes captain Shane Doan and fellow rookie Peter Mueller, a line that Coach Wayne Gretzky decided to use for Turris' first game.
Once the game got underway you could sense that the crowd was holding its collective breath every time Turris touched the puck waiting to see if the youngster could provide some magic on the ice.
But alas, there was not enough magic to keep the Coyotes from dropping the contest 4-2 to the Stars.
The rookie, however, did his best to send the crowd home confident that his future with the team would be very bright indeed.
Talking to reporters after the game Doan was quick to praise Turris' first outing in the NHL.
"He's a kid that has incredible hockey sense, he knows where to be on the ice and he gets the puck away too."
"He's going to be a great player for us and he's such an incredible kid too in the dressing room and amongst the guys."
After the game Turris himself admitted that while he did some things right, there was a lot upon which he would have to improve.
"My shot's got to get harder, gotta be smarter, gotta be better defensively, gotta be stronger on my face offs."
"I could go on and on all night, there's lots of things I gotta get better at and like I said that's what I'm going to work on this summer".
Thankfully he’ll get a few more chances in the team’s last two games against the Stars and the Anaheim Ducks to make adjustments.
Make no mistake, with only one game under his belt, no one is ready to call Turris the next Sidney Crosby.
But even at his young age, with his raw skill level, coupled with hard work during the off season will give the Coyotes faithful next season what they experienced Thursday night in Glendale—something they haven’t experienced very much in recent memory.
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