He had not played in an NHL game since February 13th.
He had not scored an NHL goal since January 26, 2011.
And he had been waived and claimed twice since the abbreviated 2013 season began.
Zach Boychuk was among three new faces who entered the lineup for the Nashville Predators Friday night looking to make a great first impression on their new team. It was mission accomplished as Boychuk, Bobby Butler, and Victor Bartley all made contributions in Nashville’s 6-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers at Bridgestone Arena.
For Boychuk, it was the second time in just over a month that he found himself trying to make an impression on a new group of teammates. He began this season with the Carolina Hurricanes, the team that drafted him 14th overall in 2008. After playing just one game with Carolina this season, he was placed on waivers and then claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boychuk suited up for seven games with Pittsburgh before being waived again.
On Tuesday, the Predators claimed the Airdrie, Alberta native in part of their effort to find some life for an offense that has been struggling to score goals.
“I think the whole team really wanted to respond and especially me coming to a new team,” Boychuk said. “Meeting some new faces, you definitely want to show your stuff early.”
With the back-to-back waiver claims of Butler and Boychuk, some of the teams other forwards felt like they were put on notice.
“Everybody is always a little bit fearing for their spot,” Colin Wilson said. “I think that is what drives players is they always want to be in the lineup and always want to be contributing to the team. So as soon as you bring in two extra forwards, it makes everybody a little bit more competitive and everybody wants to keep their job here and help the team win.”
Wilson had a career-high four points in the game on two goals and two assists.
Late in the second period with the Predators already holding a 3-0 lead, team captain Shea Weber had the puck at the right point. Instead of bombing one of his heavy slap shots, he made a pass to Boychuk on the right side. With his back to the Edmonton net, Boychuk made a nifty deflection by Yann Danis for his first goal in over two years.
“On that particular goal, we were just cycling a little bit and got it out to Weber and Weber made a great pass right on my stick,” Boychuk said. “It was a good feeling that’s for sure.”
Predators head coach Barry Trotz started Boychuk on a line with Mike Fisher and Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury.
Trotz liked what he saw out of Boychuk in his first game, but he was cautious to point out that it was just one game.
“He had lots of jump and he was getting into the interior,” Trotz said. “If you play like that, there is no reason why you can’t follow that up with the next game. First impressions were pretty good, but that was just the first impression. Can you follow that up tomorrow?”
The Predators get right back at it Saturday night, as Ryan Suter and his Minnesota Wild teammates come to town.
After a while away from game action, Boychuk was just happy to be back to playing.
“When you come up to the NHL, you want to produce just like you do in the minors, but sometimes you don’t get the opportunity,” Boychuk said. “Tonight I was put on one of the top lines with Fisher and Hornqvist and I felt like I was getting out there almost every other shift. I haven’t played in a couple of weeks, so I was a little bit tired out there. It got better as the game went on. It’s definitely a monkey off the back. It has been a long time.”