Like hundreds of other American Hockey League players, Binghamton Senators’ rookie Colin Greening had plans to get away during the league’s two-day all-star break.
But on Sunday, minutes after touching down in Chicago, where he and his girlfriend were planning to spend some time together, Greening got the call.
It was the parent Ottawa Senators telling the six-foot-three power forward from St. John’s he was being recalled.
A day later, the 24-year-old Greening was still trying to wrap his mind around what had happened and the fact he is slated to play his first NHL game tonight against the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J.
The game, with an 8:30 p.m. (NT) start time, is being televised here on Sportsnet East.
“I wasn’t sure if it would happen at all,” Greening told the Telegram Monday night.
“It’s a hard thing to gauge because this is my first year pro and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can. It was a pretty big surprise for me.”
That said, Greening, who turns 25 in March, feels he has played “pretty well” in his first pro campaign and said he had heard rumours he might be the next call-up after Bobby Butler, Jim O’Brien and Corey Locke, other Binghamton forwards who have been promoted during the season and have played a combined 14 NHL games for Ottawa in 2010-11.
“But until you get the call, you can’t know for sure.”
The 210-pound Greening was drafted 204th overall by the Senators in 2005, but didn’t turn pro until this season after spending four years at Cornell University, where he earned a degree in applied economics and management while juggling varsity hockey and a bevy of extra-curricular activities.
In his senior campaign with the Big Red, Greening finished second in team scoring with 15 goals and 20 assists in 34 games, was a first-team All-Ivy League player, a second-team All-ECAC all-star and was a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to U.S. college hockey's best player.
He obviously had a skill set, but having only played about 30-plus games a season in college, Greening knew the grind of an 82-game pro schedule would test his mettle.
“Being able to play three games in three days or four games in five days instead of two a week, that in itself was a big adjustment,” he said.
“I found my body got used to it. So in that third game on the third day, I still had a lot of energy and played as well as I did in the first game.”
Through 48 games, Greening has 12 goals and 20 assists with the AHL Senators, his 32 points putting him fifth in team scoring and tied for third among all league rookies.
This after having just goal and an assist through his first eight games.
But that slow start didn’t rattled Greening because he had decided to treat the pre-season schedule and first 20 games of the season as a crash course in what he would face and what would be expected of him.
“I was just trying to learn as much as I could as fast as I could and that’s what has helped me be able to play better in games 20 to 40,” he said.
“From 40 on, I feel that I’ve been playing really well.”
Greening, who skated on a line with Peter Regin and Jesse Winchester in practice Monday, has no idea how long his stint with Ottawa will last.
“They just said, ‘keep playing the way you are, don’t change a thing and we’ll see what happens.’”
Greening will be the seventh Newfoundlanders to play in the NHL this season, joining Riverhead, Harbour Grace’s Danny Cleary, Bonavista’s Michael Ryder and Adam Pardy, Fermeuse native Ryane Clowe, Teddy Purcell of St. John’s and Kilbride’s Luke Adam (who played in Monday’s AHL all-star game in Hershey, Pa.)
If Greening does manage to beat Hall of Fame-bound Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur tonight, he’s not sure it’ll be a highlight reel-worthy goal.
“If I score, it’ll probably be the puck going off my helmet and in or something like that,” he said with a laugh. “If I get a shot, I certainly won’t pass it up, but I’m not so sure it’ll be going in.”