WHEELING - If there are any aspiring American Hockey League players out there that need advice on how to handle what amounts to a demotion, the Wheeling Nailers' Nick Petersen should be your go-to-guy. He began last season in the ECHL and racked up 57 points (24g-33a) in 40 games before earning a call-up to Wilkes-Barre, never to be seen again.
Never again until last Wednesday, that is. In parts of two seasons - this one and last - Petersen scored 26 points (11g-15a) in 51 games for the Baby Penguins and seemed to have a solid footing at the AHL. But with an organization that's stacked top to bottom and injuries nagging him most of this season, Petersen's confidence started to wither.
So it was that the Penguins decided the ECHL would be the perfect place for him to regain that. And the Wakefield, PQ, native has no issues with the decision despite the fact a lot of players his age cannot handle similar circumstances.
Nick Petersen is back with the Nailers and trying to earn his way back up the hockey ladder.
Photo by Joe Lovell
''I've been injured a lot this year and I definitely want to come down here and get my game back,'' Petersen said after Friday night's 4-2 loss to Reading at WesBanco Arena. ''I want to have fun playing hockey.
''(In the AHL) you're playing a role where sometimes you can't be as creative as much and I like to be on the ice and play an offensive game - a power-forward game in the offensive zone.''
That's precisely what he's done in three games with the Nailers. Petersen (6-foot-2, 186 pounds) has scored 2 goals and assisted on 3 others, good for 5 points. It's not just the points that matter though, and interim Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said he's most impressed with Petersen's work ethic.
''He knows he's got to come down here and work and we had a chat (Friday),''Donatelli said. ''He's come down with a real good mindset and wanting to get better.
''He's got a really good attitude.''
It's an attitude that has seemed to rub off on a group of teammates that was already known for its work ethic. Suddenly nobody is taking a single shift off and everyone is finishing checks with a reckless abandon as the Nailers have arguably ramped up the pace with which they play to an even higher level.
''He's finishing checks, he's working hard and he's going to the net,'' Donatelli said. ''He's a pleasure to coach.''
Those are exactly the type of words the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League product hopes echo throughout the system. Petersen, who said he ''didn't want to bring a negative vibe to the locker room,'' figures the best way to get back to the American League and beyond, is to work hard every shift, every night.
''They're going to be watching me. Pittsburgh's right here and they've got a break, and Wilkes-Barre's got a break,'' he said. ''So eyes are on me and that's what I've got to do - I've got to make them notice me and get back to the next level eventually.
''I want to make Pittsburgh look at me.''
Something tells me it already is. And that attitude Petersen brought with him to Wheeling, is a big reason why.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net