Lauridsen Happy With Debut
When three of the Flyers top defensemen go down in a week, it was expected some new, young faces would find the ice to attempt to make an impact.
For one Dane, it was an opportunity of a life time.
Oliver Lauridsen made his NHL debut in the Flyers 3-1 win over Boston. He played over 17 minutes, all even strength, and registered a shot on goal.
Lauridsen became only the eighth player from Denmark to wear an NHL jersey. He was the first to put on a Flyers uniform.
It was an exciting experience for Lauridsen. He said he was "stoked" after finding out he would be wearing a no. 38 Flyers jersey.
Well, I was really stoked," Lauridsen said. "It was a great feeling. It’s what you have been waiting for, for a long time. Obviously, I was just overly happy and had to tell my family."
Lauridsen said yesterday that he was excited to take on Boston and their big-bodied captain Zdeno Chara.
Lauridsen needed time to adjust like all rookie defensemen who make their debut in the NHL. The game is much faster at the highest level than it is in the AHL and Lauridsen found out the hard way.
Only 56 seconds into the game, Lauridsen got burned by Nathan Horton. His only alternative was pull him down and it sent him to box for two minutes to serve his first NHL minor for holding.
"It’s a different scene and it’s a different game," Lauridsen said. "It definitely was. As I said, as soon as that first period and first couple shifts were out of the way, it was hockey senses pretty much."
Lauridsen boasts a huge frame. At 6'6" and 220 pounds, he has the body build and playing style of a stay-at-home defenseman.
He's physical down low, registering three hits, and he has a knack for blocking shots, which he did three times against Boston. But don't let his size fool you because he is a pretty good skater and puck-handler as well.
"He’s big out there. He’s got a good stick and he’s really smart with the puck," said captain Claude Giroux. "I’ve never seen him play before, but he’s a really good player."
Giroux wasn't the only teammate impressed with Lauridsen's debut. One of the locker room's older veterans, Mike Knuble, had praise for the rookie.
"He did great," Knuble said. "It’s a million things going through your mind when you’re playing your first game. There are so many things going through your brain and it’s not easy. You come in with no practice and you’re playing the Boston Bruins. It’s a tough thing to step into, right into the fire."
Head coach Peter Laviolette matched up Lauridsen with Luke Schenn to start the game. Lauridsen also got some time skating with Erik Gustafsson in the middle of the game.
Laviolette even had faith in Lauridsen to give him ice time towards the end of the game while the Flyers were defending a 2-1 lead against a surging Bruins team.
"If you look at the matchups we have, I thought it would be best to split up our game, put him and Luke out there against that big line of big bodies," Laviolette said. "I wanted to put big bodies on big bodies as much as possible.
"I think when a young player comes in you want to watch him and see how he’s doing in his first game and as the game progresses you just find him and he did a good job defensively. That’s a tough line to play against so it didn’t make sense if you have a guy that’s playing a good game and doing what he’s asked to keep him on the bench and change things up in the final five or ten minutes. He played a strong game for us."
With praise like that from Laviolette, it's almost a certainty that Laviolette will keep the 24-year-old in the lineup tomorrow against the Capitals. With recently acquired Kent Huskins from Detroit now on the roster, Lauridsen will be competing with the 33-year-old veteran to keep his NHL ice time.
But if Lauridsen keeps up the good work, he won't have anything to worry about as he looks to prove himself for the remainder of the season.