PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Pensacola goaltender Brian Eklund made his National Hockey League debut on Tuesday when he started for the Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal. Eklund stopped the first seven shots he faced and finished with 16 saves in a 3-2 loss.
Eklund is the sixth former ECHL player in the last five days to make his NHL debut and the 19th former ECHL player that has played his first NHL game in 2005-06, bringing the total number of players who have played in the NHL after the ECHL to 275.
In five games with Springfield of the American Hockey League in 2005-06, Eklund is 3-2-0 with a goals-against average of 4.06 and a save percentage of .890.
The 6-foot-5 and 205-pound Eklund was 38-17-7 with a goals against average of 3.01 and a save percentage of .921 in 62 games with Pensacola in 2003-04 and following the ECHL season he served as the Lightning’s third goaltender during their 2004 Stanley Cup run. The native of Braintree, Massachusetts set league records in minute (3,724) and saves (2,194) while tying the league record for wins (38). Eklund, who appeared in 43 games with Springfield in 2004-05, made an ECHL postseason record 83 saves in a 2-1 double overtime loss at Louisiana and was the seventh goaltender in ECHL history to record a goal.
Selected in the seventh round (226th overall) by Tampa Bay in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Eklund began his professional career in 2002-03 going 10-6-0 with a goals-against average of 3.66 and a save percentage of .896 in 19 games for Pensacola and 1-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .974 save percentage in one game with Springfield.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the NHL and there is one head coach, 12 assistant coaches, 12 referees and five linesmen working in the NHL in 2005-06 who have ECHL experience.
There have been 18 players in 2005-06 that have made their first NHL appearance since playing in the ECHL: Evgeny Artukhin (Tampa Bay on October 20), Adam Berkhoel (Atlanta on October 15), Derek Boogaard (Minnesota on October 5), Kevin Colley (New York Islanders on October 27), Brian Eklund (Tampa Bay on November 8), Michael Garnett (Atlanta on October 12), Trevor Gillies (Anaheim on November 6), Steven Goertzen (Columbus on October 21), Jeff Giuliano (Los Angeles on November 5), Timo Helbling (Tampa Bay on October 5), Colin Hemingway (St. Louis on October 19), Raitis Ivanans (Montreal on October 8), Zenon Konopka (Anaheim on October 30), Jay Leach (Boston on November 5), Mike Morrison (Edmonton on November 7), George Parros (Los Angeles on October 5), Nolan Schaefer (San Jose on October 26), Martin St. Pierre (Chicago on November 4), and Mark Streit (Montreal on October 8).