SUN Hockey Pool

Nystrom amazed by crowd

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

Eric Nystrom was disappointed in the end result but not with the welcoming.

Nystrom, the Flames first-rounder from 2002, was simply blown away by the reception from the more than 19,000 who packed the Saddledome to greet him and his teammates in last night's home opener, his first game in the Stampede City.

"If you can't get up for a game like this, you shouldn't play hockey," said the rookie left winger who skated in his second NHL contest in last night's 3-2 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars.

"With the crowd and the banner raising, I definitely had a little chill. Once the puck was getting ready to drop, I was able to get into the right mindset."

Sort of.

"Yeah, there were some jitters on the first shift," he admitted. "In the first period, I was playing a little nervous and I know you can't do that. Hopefully, I get another shot."

Nystrom skated nearly 10 minutes of five-on-five action on a regular shift with Stephane Yelle and Darren McCarty.

It was a big responsibility, seeing as they were often squared against Dallas standouts Mike Modano and Jason Arnott.

"Yeller's a good defensive player, we were playing with a defensive mindset but we couldn't get anything going offenisvely," he said.. "It's not that we were just checking, we just couldn't get the puck in deep and get a forecheck."

Named the top defensive forward in his conference during his last season at Michigan, Nystrom has no qualms about being thrust into a similar position with Calgary.

"If that's the role I've got to play, that's the role I'm definitely going to embrace," said the freshman who had one hit and one blocked shot last night. "That's probably the strongest part of my game, defensive play, and playing with Yeller and Mac is awesome. Stephane is probably one of the best in the league and Darren's been around.

"You couldn't have any better mentors."


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