By Andy Kent
Naples Daily News
If Drew Larman forgot to pack his shaving cream when he left Rochester, N.Y., on Sunday night, Florida Panthers defenseman Ric Jackman made sure he had some to take back with him from sunny Florida.
Larman, a former Everblade who made his NHL debut Monday night against the Washington Capitals, took a face full of shaving cream from Jackman after Tuesday morning’s practice at the BankAtlantic Center while he was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter.
The rookie initiation ritual took place moments after Larman was handed another plane ticket and told he was going back to his American Hockey League team, but he was reassured that he had left a definite impression on Panthers head coach and general manager Jacques Martin.
“I talked to him today and it was all positive,” Larman said by phone from the Fort Lauderdale airport before he boarded his plane.
“He told me I played really well and thought I did some really good things with the puck and made some good decisions, so it was just a real positive meeting. Now I’ll just go back to Rochester and help them improve on their 12-1 record.”
Even though the Panthers lost to the Capitals, 4-1, it wasn’t due to a lack of offense. They fired 45 shots at Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig but he was in the right spot for every one of them except the one goal by Nathan Horton.
On the final stat sheet, the 21-year-old Larman logged more ice time (10:48) and shifts (18) than mainstays Martin Gelinas (9:52 and 15), Greg Campbell (8:59 and 14) and Joel Kwiatowski (6:07 and 9). He won five of his eight face-offs, took one shift on the penalty kill and had one shot on goal, which came in his first ever NHL shift.
“I got on the ice for the first time about two minutes into the game, started off with a face-off in our own zone, we got a rush, worked it in and I ended up getting a shot,” Larman said. “Ros (Rostislav Olesz) made a nice pass to me and I just got it off quick. Unfortunately, Kolzig made a nice save on it.”
Larman wound up taking out his frustration on Washington’s Matt Pettinger later on in the game when he leveled the left winger with a body check. The hit was replayed on the arena’s Jumbotron, much to the delight of the 12,108 fans in attendance. Everblades head coach Gerry Fleming was at the game and described Larman’s hit as “ the hit of the night.” He said his former player had a very impressive game overall.
Although Larman would have liked his stay to last longer, what he took away from the experience was even more motivation to play hard every night in hopes that the next call-up could be a permanent one.
“I’ve been dreaming of that moment ever since I was a little kid so to get that under my belt felt really good,” he said. “And Jacques made me feel really comfortable, but not too comfortable, and I just wanted to go out there and work hard.”
Martin liked what he saw from Larman.
“He had a very good game. I thought for his first game, he reads the ice well,” Martin told the Sun-Sentinel. “He had a couple of scoring chances himself and did some good things away from the puck. His coaches in Rochester felt he had been our most consistent player.
“That’s encouraging as a kid that didn’t even get drafted and won the Memorial Cup two years ago. We signed him last year. He started with the Everblades, got an opportunity and started getting better.”
And at the same time, Larman has given some of the current Everblades hope that they, too, can reach that ultimate destination.