Literally, no time to panic

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Ryan O'Marra didn't get a chance to take the warm-up for his first NHL game, arriving just in time for the puck drop.

Last night, he was in the warm-up, but didn't play as Ales Hemsky made a surprise return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup against the Buffalo Sabres.

It was a tough break for the former first-round pick, who had family and friends in attendance down from his hometown of Toronto to watch him play.

POLICE ESCORT

Regardless, O'Marra's NHL debut a night earlier proved to be a memorable one, having been called up the afternoon of the Oilers game against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday and requiring a ride in a police car in order to get to the game on time.

"It was probably better that I didn't take the warm-up (Tuesday)," O'Marra said. "I didn't have time to be nervous, that was the biggest thing. I didn't have a warm-up or a lot of time to wait in the dressing room to think about things too much. I just went out there and played."

The Oilers were forced to call up the six-foot-two, 207-pound centre after Robert Nilsson and Taylor Chorney went down with injuries.

Nilsson was suffering concussion-type symptoms after landing in Ottawa the night before, while Chorney sprained an ankle in a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche Sunday.

With already five other regulars out of the lineup, the Oilers found themselves a body short going up against the Senators.

"It was a bit crazy getting there (Ottawa)," O'Marra said. "I missed my original flight by about two minutes because I couldn't get my bags on it. So I was freaking out. Here's an opportunity for me to get my first game in and I missed my flight. But luckily we found another way to get there and it all worked out for me for the best."

O'Marra's plane landed in Ottawa an hour before the game, which would have made it near impossible for him to make it to the Scotiabank Place in time for the opening face-off in a regular vehicle.

Therefore, local security arranged for O'Marra to be picked up in a squad car and raced to the game.

"I heard they were ripping down the highway in the police car and he was flicking the lights on and stuff," said Oilers centre Gilbert Brule. "That's a pretty interesting first game for him, but I think it went pretty well."

O'Marra got seven shifts, finishing with six minutes of ice time and a minus-one rating. His line was on for the Senators second goal in a 4-3 shootout win.

"I think he did all right," said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. "He didn't have a lot of shifts, but he did fine when he had the opportunity. They got stuck out there on the one goal but apart from that, he was fine."

PART OF SMYTH DEAL

Acquired in the trade that shipped Ryan Smyth off to the New York Islanders just prior to the trading deadline in 2007, O'Marra has been in the Oilers' minor league system for the last three seasons. This year he had two goals and two assists in 15 games for the Springfield Falcons.

"It was great, in spite of everything that happened, getting there late, the game went well for me and it was easy to play with the two players I was with," O'Marra said. "Gilbert Brule and Mike Comrie are both really good players, they both have a lot of speed, so it was really easy to play with them."

O'Marra got a chance to absorb a bit of the game before being thrown over the boards. Sam Gagner took the first shift alongside Brule and Comrie before O'Marra took the ice five minutes in.

"I don't want to say that my first shift was a blur," O'Marra said. "I just don't know if I can point out anything that was incredibly memorable. I basically just chipped it in and chipped it out. I kept it pretty simple, that's all I remember."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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