TAMPA, FLA. — Following a 3-2 overtime loss Sunday afternoon to the Rockford IceHogs, forward Nathan Walker and defenseman Derrick Pouliot of the San Antonio Rampage got the news.
They had been called up by the Blues, and were to join the team on its three-game road trip Thanksgiving week. Getting to Nashville for Monday’s game was, of course, an adventure.
“It was after our (San Antonio) game, about 6 o’clock,” said Pouliot, who scored his fourth goal of the AHL season against the IceHogs.
They had an 8 o’clock flight.
“Nathan and I had to rush home, grab some stuff and head to the airport,” Pouliot said. “It was real tight. Just packed as much as I could, hopped on the plane.”
With a connecting flight, they made it to Nashville late Sunday night. They were on the ice Monday for the Blues’ morning skate.
Now what happens?
“I’m not sure the time frame or what’s gonna happen,” Pouliot said. “So we’ll take it day by day and hopefully get into a game or two and see what happens.“
Pouliot, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins with 200 NHL regular-season games on his resumé, most likely is roster insurance during Robert Bortuzzo’s four-game league suspension.
“He’s got good ability with the puck for sure,” coach Craig Berube said. “He can move a puck, and a power-play type guy. And he’s got experience. We need another D-man up here with Borts suspended.”
Walker, the first Australian to play an NHL game (for the Washington Capitals in 2017), may be more than insurance. He’s the only spare forward for the Blues at the moment, but Berube sounds like he wants to get Walker in a game or two.
“Walker had a real good (Blues) camp,” Berube said. “Energy. Feistiness. The skating, forechecking, lot of good stuff. He’s doing a great job in the American League. I think he’s leading the league in scoring down there.”
Close. Entering Tuesday’s games in the American Hockey Leagues, Walker was tied for second in goals (12) and tied for third in points (22).
“He’s the type of guy that we can use,” Berube said. “We’ll get him in there. We’ll see how it goes. But we’d like to use him and see what he can do up here.”
Walker, 25, has never scored more than 17 goals in an AHL season. He has one goal in 12 NHL games. So his scoring prowess this season is surprising.
“I think I’m shooting the puck a little more and getting to the dirty areas I guess,” Walker said. “Playing with skillful players (in San Antonio), there’s a lot of good players on that hockey team. They definitely know how to find your stick when you’re in those dirty spots.”
Small in stature (5-9, 186), Walker is known for his speed. Earlier in the Rampage season he was routinely getting breakaways.
“I think the system we play (in San Antonio), kinds of plays into my speed,” Walker said.
As for Pouliot, who played in 144 games over the past two seasons for the Vancouver Canucks, he was leading all AHL defensemen in points at the time of his callup with 18 points on four goals and 14 assists.
“I think I’ve been performing, doing everything I can down there to get my opportunity to come back up here,” Pouliot said. “Hopefully, I can get in a game or two and continue how I was playing.”
Both callups were healthy scratches against Nashville.
The Blues won only 39 percent of their faceoffs Monday in Nashville (25 of 64), matching their season low in a game.
— After killing all three Nashville Predators power plays Monday, the Blues are 14-for-14 on the penalty kill over their last five games, moving up to 10th in PK efficiency in the league (83.8 percent).
— Zach Sanford had a season-high 14:48 of ice time Monday; Justin Faulk had a season-low 16:01.