PHILADELPHIA – When Tyler Graovac steps that first toe onto the ice at Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday, it’ll be a dream come true.
Graovac was born and raised in Brampton, Ontario, but Ottawa is the Wild center’s second home. He played most of his junior career for the Ottawa 67s, and when the Civic Center was being remodeled, Graovac played two of those years in the Senators’ barn, then called Scotiabank Place.
Graovac, 23, first made the 67s as a 15-year-old, graduated high school in Ottawa and still has lots of 67s fans he’s in touch with. Sunday, his parents, Kelly and Tom, sister Tomlyn, grandmother, aunt, uncle, cousins and lots of friends are coming to root him on.
“I’ve been waiting for this feeling for a while,” said Graovac, a 2011 seventh-round pick who scored 21 goals in 30 games for Ottawa in 2012-13 before being dealt to championship-contender Belleville.
“Ottawa is such a home for me. I would watch Sens games. And, it would be so cool to know I played on the same Scotiabank ice as them, and now coming back to play against the Sens — like, my billet dad [Pete Valente] is such a huge Sens fan — words can’t describe it.
“I grew up in that city.”
Graovac played his 10th NHL game spread over three seasons Saturday against the Flyers. He has been limited to 8 minutes, 47 seconds a game.
“I’m trying not to get comfortable,” he said. “I still believe I haven’t proven what I can do.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t a fan of Graovac’s game Thursday in Pittsburgh. He had a few glaring turnovers, one that led to a penalty and Penguins power-play goal.
“He’s played two really good NHL games and two very average games,” Boudreau said. “We just have to make sure he plays not watching the game. He goes in and he’ll contain, but he’s big enough and strong enough and fast enough that if he goes in and is deliberate with these guys, he’ll knock guys off pucks.”
Low flight risk
Perhaps a sign that rookie Joel Eriksson Ek isn’t being sent back to his pro club, Farjestad, in Sweden before playing his 10th NHL game is Boudreau thought Saturday’s game was Eriksson Ek’s 10th.
It was actually his ninth. But since the coach thought it was his 10th, the Wild, as GM Chuck Fletcher has said, doesn’t seem to care about burning the first year of his three-year contract.
Eriksson Ek started Saturday’s game on the fourth line for a second game in a row, but Boudreau noted, “I used him in the last 10 minutes [in Pittsburgh] when I went down to three lines, so I think he’s pretty responsible.”
Fletcher was noncommittal toward Eriksson Ek’s future Saturday.
Eriksson Ek actually got hurt 20 seconds into his first shift Saturday when a shot ramped up his stick and hit him square on the jaw, but he returned in the second period.
• After Patric Hornqvist’s attempted cross-crease pass caromed into the Wild net off defenseman Ryan Suter on Thursday, Penguins star Evgeni Malkin skated by Suter and lifted his helmet as he sat on the ice. Suter says it was no big deal. “I got him before, a little slash, so when he was skating by me, he lifted my mask. I know him,” Suter said. “I wanted a call, so I was trying to make a big deal out of it.”
• Christoph Bertschy was inserted into Saturday’s lineup and Zack Mitchell, who made his NHL debut Thursday, was scratched. Defenseman Nate Prosser was scratched for a second consecutive game.
• Fletcher said Zach Parise, who has missed five games because of a foot injury, is skating hard. The hope is he can return Tuesday or Thursday.