EDMONTON - It was 3:30 a.m. when Milan Kytnar began his day in Stockton, Calif.
“It was going to be a long day because we were headed to play in Alaska,” he said of the two-game trip to play the Aces.
“We flew to Sacramento. And then to Seattle.”
It was there, at the airport, where his general manager pulled him aside.
“It was about 8:30 or 9 a.m.. He told me I'd been called up. I'm thinking I'm going to Oklahoma City.
“He said 'No. Not OKC. Edmonton.’
“I said 'Come on. Stop making fun of me.’
“But they got my bags off the plane and handed me a ticket to Edmonton.”
Normally, the Oilers would have brought somebody up from their American Hockey League farm team, but there was no way the travel connections would have worked. And they didn't want to play with 11 forwards when the team was already decimated with injuries with the loss of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
“My flight wasn't until 2:30 so I had salmon and rice for a pre-game meal and waited five hours for my plane to leave at the airport.”
With the time difference, he didn't arrive in Edmonton until 5 :30 p.m., not knowing for sure if OKC call up Ryan O'Marra would have recovered from the 'flu to be able to play against the New Jersey Devils last night.
“I got to the rink at about 6:30. It was eight minutes into the warmup when I got out on the ice.”
When you find yourself buried in the ECHL or anywhere else deep in the minors, you don't wake up every morning wondering if this will be the day you get called up to play in the NHL.
Kytnar had been to three training camps with the Oilers and hadn't made it into a pre-season game.
When his abbreviated pre-game warmup was finished, Kytnar headed back to the dressing room.
“Guys came over to shake my hand,” he said.
But most of that's a blur.
“When you don't really have time to think about it, you go out and play the game. That was probably a good thing,” he said.
In a game where the storyline was “bring back the world junior” as both coaches tried to win it 0-0, that Kytner could have a travel day like he had and didn't look out of place might have been a statement on the current state of the Oilers.
No. 64 had a giveaway on his second shift. But he sent Ben Eager down the boards for a chance in the second period and was in front of the net banging away for one of the better chances in the game.
“I felt good on the ice after the first couple of shifts,” said the player who ended up with six shifts for 5:31 of ice time, a shot on goal, two take-aways and only the one give-away.
“I had a lot of fun,” he said.
“It was really exciting for me.
“It was awesome.”
From Topolcany, Slovakia, Kytner came to Canada to play junior hockey, bouncing from the Kelowna Rockets to the Saskatoon Blades to the Vancouver Giants, and was chosen in the fifth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at No. 127 overall by the Oilers.
He was a rookie with the Oklahoma City Barons last year where he played 78 games with 13 goals and 29 assists. He was back at OKC for seven games this season after he missed two months with an injury from training prior to camp. He was banished to Stockton in the ECHL, where he scored five goals and produced eight points in 14 games.
“I kept telling myself the main thing was to try to stay positive no matter where you are. Keep working. Go from there,” he said.
“He did really good today. I thought he was a real responsible two-way guy,” said head coach Tom Renney.
“Good on him. He still has a dream or he should have. He's a young player. He has a lot of hockey in front of him. He should stay with it.”
Kytnar knows he may be on a plane to Alaska and on the ice against the Aces tonight, perhaps never to return to the NHL.
“If that's the way it works, I'll be happy I got called up here and played this game. Now I'll always be able to say I played in the NHL.”
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