NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 26: Ryan Ellis #49 of the Nashville Predators skates against Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings at the Bridgestone Arena on December 26, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
What a day for Ryan Ellis.
After taking the morning skate for the Milwaukee Admirals in preparation for their game against the Rockford Ice Hogs, Ellis was called into the team's office and was informed that he would instead be in Nashville playing against the Detroit Red Wings
When it was deemed that Shea Weber would be out of the lineup with an unspecified upper-body injury, Barry Trotz needed a sixth defenseman. He called Admirals head coach Ian Herbers and simply said, "send me your best guy."
Ellis was that guy.
"I was overjoyed; I was pretty happy," Ellis said after the game about making his NHL debut. "I think anyone coming up to play their first game is pretty excited, and I was obviously a bit nervous; I'm out there playing the Red Wings and it's a pretty good club over there. I was just excited."
But before Ellis could take the ice, he had to go over the gameplan with the coaches.
"I got here about 6:00 - 5:45 or 6:00. It was a lot different. Usually I'm taking a nap and I'm here at the rink for a 7:00 game at 4:15," Ellis said. "I had a little meeting just to go over what Detroit does and how they play, what their systems are. It was really just, you have to get caught up quick and then just read and react."
Overall, Ellis had a fairly solid game for a 20-year-old making his NHL debut. He played alongside Jack Hillen at even strength and saw powerplay time early with Sergei Kostitsyn and, later in the game, Ryan Suter.
"He played good. Just kept it simple," Suter said about Ellis' game. "When you're young, you try to do too much. But you just have to keep it simple. He did a good job."
And keeping it simple seemed to be the theme of the night for Ellis.
"I just wanted to come in and play a simple game," Ellis said. "Move the puck and try not to make too many mistakes. The guys made it very easy for me to fit in and I'm very thankful for that."
"I thought he played pretty well. He made some good outlet passes on the powerplay. He was trying to be a little too cute early, then he started shooting it," Trotz said. "He's a smart player."
Ellis finished the night with three shots on goal, two blocked shots on defense, and logged 18:13 of time on ice on the night.
But where Ellis really shined was on the powerplay. The young defenseman played 5:31 on the powerplay - second among Nashville defenseman.
And he even impressed the opposing coaches. Detroit head coach Mike Babcock was singing Ellis' praises after the game, despite the Nashville loss.
"The kid they brought up is as good as there is in hockey on the power play, so he's no slouch," Babcock said. "He's very deceptive, he really sees, he has ice water in his veins. He's going to be a dominant power play guy in the National Hockey League."
Around the locker room
Here's what a few other Predators had to say about tonight's loss:
- Ellis on playing Detroit: "I was probably a little nervous. That's a pretty good team out there with a lot of superstars. I think you see them in warmups, you're a little shell-shocked. It was a lot of fun, the guys made it really easy on me. They talked me through a lot of plays in different situations. It made my game a lot easier."
- Suter on the second goal call: "The ref said no goal right away and pointed for a face-off in our zone. Usually that's the call on the ice. Then all of a sudden they change their mind and say they think they saw it went in."
- "I saw the ref say no goal and point for a face-off and then I see them huddling up."
- "It's unfortunate, because that was a turning point in the game. Unless you see total video evidence, that's the whole point of the video review: to make sure goals were good or not good. They said it was inconclusive on the video and the ref says no goal, that usually means no goal."
- "Either way, we have to come out and have a better next shift. You have to get the momentum back."
- Suter on Weber's absence: "He logs a lot of ice. He's one of our best defensemen and takes a lot of ice. Guys stepped up tonight, I thought everyone played well."