Brennan Evans pays close attention to Denis Gauthier's game, trying to pick up on the little nuances to help him become an NHL defenceman.
But when Gauthier hobbled off the ice in Game 6 Saturday night, Evans realized he might actually be replacing the seventh-year veteran in the Calgary Flames' lineup.
"I definitely didn't expect it," said the 22-year-old Evans after his first practice with the Flames yesterday at the 'Dome. "But seeing Denis get hurt there, that's when I kinda figured that I might be getting called up."
Sure enough, the summons came for Evans Monday evening. With the injury situation, the Flames are left with precious few defencemen available in the system, so the little-known Evans got the call from hockey adminstration director Mike Burke.
Can't-miss draftee Dion Phaneuf is still playing post-season hockey with the WHL's Red Deer Rebels. And blueline prospect Jesse Wallin is suffering from a career-threatening concussion -- the same problem veterans Petr Buzek and Brad Werenka, both still under contract with Calgary, are experiencing.
"I got the call having supper the other night before Game 7," continued Evans, a Camrose product. "He said they needed me to come up when they won Game 7. So I was never so excited to watch a hockey game in my life."
Whether or not he'll see game action, at the very least, Evans will practise full-time with the Flames. Gauthier is suspected to be sidelined for the rest of the post-season.
"It should be a good opportunity," said Evans, returning to the team for the first time since being cut from training camp. "But I don't think it'll sink in until I get to Joe Louis Arena (in Detroit) when the fans are going crazy."
In the meantime, the first-year professional realizes he has plenty to work on.
Prior to yesterday's practice, Evans was off the ice for 10 days. The Lowell Lock Monsters missed the American Hockey League playoffs, cutting his hockey season short.
In the regular season, he finished with one goal, 10 points, a plus-3 rating and 65 penalty minutes over 64 games with the Lock Monsters.
The previous five seasons, Evans excelled in the WHL for the Seattle Thunderbirds. Coincidentally, his first junior game came in the playoffs. In 303 games split between the T-birds and Kootenay Ice, Evans tallied 13 goals, 49 points and 560 penalty minutes.
"Then I had to decide whether to go to (a CIS) university (on a four-year scholarship) or try pro hockey and there wasn't a lot of opportunities in pro hockey until (Flames GM/head coach) Darryl (Sutter) called with the summer camp invitation, so that kinda made me lean toward here."
Now he's one injury away from getting a shot at playing in these playoffs.
"I'm a defensive defenceman. I got 10 points this year, which is pretty good for me. I try to play my own end pretty solid and make people pay in our own end."
Just like Gauthier.
"Exactly," Evans concurred. "I watch him, especially during the games, and pick up things that he does because he's the kind of player that I like to be."
Student in for mentor
TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun
, Last Updated: 12:46 PM ET