By Chris Umpierre
ESTERO, Fla. – After he was introduced as one of the Carolina Hurricanes’ two goalies on the first day of the 2005-06 NHL season, Kevin Nastiuk shook his head in disbelief. The 20-year-old couldn’t believe how far he had come.
“Coming from junior hockey and one year later having my name called out for the Carolina Hurricanes on opening night was an unbelievable experience,” Nastiuk said.
A fourth-round pick in the 2003 NHL draft, Nastiuk was promoted to the Hurricanes twice this season from the American Hockey League’s Lowell Lock Monsters. Each call-up lasted about a week. Serving as a backup, Nastiuk never got into a game.
Carolina reassigned Nastiuk from Lowell to the ECHL’s Florida Everblades this week and the rookie could play his first game for the Blades Friday. Nastiuk said his short time in the NHL drives him each day.
He is one of two Blades with NHL experience — defenseman Grant McNeill played three games with the Florida Panthers in 2003-04. Nastiuk was first promoted to Carolina because of a hip injury to starter Martin Gerber. He was called up again Dec. 14 when the Hurricanes demoted Cam Ward.
Nastiuk has struggled this season, going 1-7-3 with a 3.45 goals-against average for Lowell. He has lost his last six starts, allowing 22 goals in that time span. Nastiuk isn’t all to blame. The Lock Monsters (13-18-4) are scoring just 2.6 goals per game.
“(Kevin) is going to be a good goalie. I’m convinced of it,” said forward Steve Saviano, who played 16 games for the Lock Monsters before being reassigned to the Blades on Tuesday. “He’s a big prospect for Carolina.”
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Nastiuk has taken the demotion in stride, saying it’s a good opportunity to build his confidence.