After Zach Boychuk was claimed off of waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins March 5th, he had a lot to do in a short amount of time. Chief among the things on his to-do list was get to Nashville to join his new team.
He did not have an opportunity to check the Predators’ upcoming schedule, but several friends and family members let him know about one game that was in the not too distant future.
Boychuk hails from Airdrie, Alberta, which is about 15 minutes outside of Calgary. When the Predators claimed him, several people let Boychuk know that Nashville had a road game in Calgary March 15th.
“I had a lot of people texting me and messaging me saying that they had bought tickets that day,” Boychuk said Monday following their practice in Nashville. “I’m really looking forward to going home and seeing the family and playing in the Dome for the first time in the NHL.”
The Carolina Hurricanes drafted Boychuk with the 14th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Under the NHL’s recent schedule formats, Eastern Conference teams have not made many trips out west. Having shuffled between the NHL and the AHL the last few years, Boychuk missed Carolina’s one trip to the Stampede City since he turned professional.
“Carolina only went there once the last three or four years, and I ended up missing that game and I wasn’t able to go home,” he said. “It is nice to come to the Western Conference where we usually go there a couple of times a year in a normal season. It seems like I came here at the perfect time.”
Boychuk played in the two games right after being claimed by the Predators. He scored in his Nashville debut March 8th against Edmonton, but he was a healthy scratch for Tuesday night’s game in Dallas.
With the Predators battling injuries and some inconsistency among its group of forwards, head coach Barry Trotz is looking for players to make the most of their time in the lineup.
“Everybody is looking for opportunity,” Trotz said following Monday’s practice. “You have a chance to step in and contribute. If you don’t, someone else will go in and you will have to wait for your next turn.”
Boychuk drew back into the lineup for Thursday night’s game in Vancouver and hopes to be back in again on the second half of the back-to-back set in Calgary.
“I am really looking forward to going back home and hopefully getting to play in my hometown,” he said. “Lots of family has been really looking forward to it the last few years, so it should be lots of fun.”
Getting the chance to play in Calgary’s Saddledome would mean Boychuk would be playing against the team he grew up rooting for in his younger years.
“I was a Flames fan growing up and played against the Hitmen in junior,” he said. “I never got to play there in the NHL, so I am really looking forward to it.”