SAN JOSE — Greg Nemisz could rattle off the “big” games he’s played.
The 2009 Memorial Cup final comes to mind.
The 2010 tournament championship, too, not to mention the Ontario Hockey League titles en route to those crowns.
There’s also all those games at the 2010 World Juniors, including the championship finale.
Nemisz can add another to the list now.
The 2008 first-round draft choice made his Calgary Flames debut Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks and used the experience gained from those high-intensity clashes to prepare.
“I’ve played in a lot of big games so far in my small career. I’ve got to draw on those,” he said prior to suiting up against the Sharks.
“At the end of the day, it’s just another hockey game. You’ve got to approach it like that. It doesn’t really matter who’s on the other side, just go play your game.”
Nemisz received the call from the AHL Abbotsford Heat after left-winger Niklas Hagman was sent back to Calgary due to a concussion suffered in Monday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
He arrived in San Jose late Tuesday knowing it was to actually play, not as insurance.
“I was a little too excited to get a great sleep,” Nemisz admitted.
The excitement is understandable.
From the point of view of being easy, it wasn’t the best-case scenario for Nemisz to make his NHL debut. The Sharks are no cream puff opposition, for starters. Add the importance of the game for both teams, and it’s akin to being thrown into the deep end of the pool.
Nemisz was given his share of pep talks and advice in anticipation.
“They’ve told me to feel comfortable and play my game,” he said of the teammates who welcomed him when he arrived in San Jose Tuesday. “It’s a different role than I’m used to playing, but I’ll try to give some energy and get some shots on net.”
At this point, Nemisz’s role for the Flames is that simple. Skate on a fourth line and provide energy, especially by being physical on the forecheck. Anything else, like offensive contributions, is gravy.
“Just play well,” head coach Brent Sutter said of his expectations. “It’s a great experience just to be put in situations like this. Just play well and enjoy it.”
In short, continue what Nemisz believes he’s been doing in a strong first professional season, in which he’s collected 14 goals and 32 points for the Heat.
“We’re having a good year, it’s a young team and we’re right there in the hunt for the playoffs, so it’s exciting,” said the 20-year-old. “I’ve learned so much jumping into the pro game.”
“The biggest thing is your responsibility at both ends of the ice,” he explained. “When you’re playing big minutes, you’ve got to be sound defensively. Most nights, being up against the other team’s top lines, so you have to be responsible in your end and you have to produce, too.”