Friendly faces see Grabner score

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Maybe Michael Grabner was waiting for an audience of close friends before finding the back of the net at the next level.

Whatever the case may be, the Manitoba Moose call-up potted his first NHL goal against the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday, on a booming slapper that beat Antti Niemi to the blocker side and was the equalizer before the Vancouver Canucks earned a 3-2 victory at the United Center.

"The first one is always hard to get," Grabner told the Vancouver Sun. "It's nice to get it out of the way. It's hard to score in this league."

Many of Grabner's AHL teammates were thrilled to be in attendance and Moose head coach Scott Arniel was happy to witness the occasion live.

"Now he's got a goal and an assist and he doesn't have to press so hard," Arniel said from suburban Chicago before the Moose hit the ice in preparation for tonight's game against the Chicago Wolves. "He gets streaky and when he scores, he scores in bunches. Maybe this will be a little shot of confidence that he needed."

Although the Moose earned a series sweep over the Wolves at the MTS Centre on Oct. 10 and 11, Arniel is expecting a tough test from a club that features a new coaching staff and probably a different style of play under Don Lever and Ron Wilson.

"Their team will be fired up, there's no doubt about it," said Arniel. "They'll be a different team than what we saw in our building and they'll want to make a good first impression. It's all the more reason we'll have to be good with our game and our play."

The game also figures to have some added excitement with long-time NHL defenceman Chris Chelios making his debut with the Wolves.

"He's the same age as me, I played against him all those years and to see him still playing is wonderful to see," said Arniel. "It's great for our league to have a guy like that. His experience and commitment to fitness is outstanding and maybe there's (an NHL) team out there that may want him to be that defensive partner for a young defenceman."


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