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For Calgary Flames call-up Buddy Robinson, this was a long time coming — a waiting game that spanned three-plus years, a grand total of 1,143 days and 269 outings at the American Hockey League level.
On Tuesday, the 28-year-old right-winger was finally rewarded with another nibble of NHL action.
“Being a competitor, you never want to settle for being in a league below,” Robinson said prior to a battle with the St. Louis Blues at the Saddledome, his first big-league look since December 2016. “You always want to be the best and you always want to compete at the best level, so you just want to go out and prove that you can stick here.
“Because anytime you’re in the National League and you’re an athlete playing at the highest level, there is really no beating that.”
You couldn’t wipe the smile off Robinson’s mug after Tuesday’s morning skate.
Johnny Gaudreau was wearing more of a game-face, but he too was tickled.
After all, the superstar left-winger worked to convince his close pal and fellow New Jersey native to sign with the Flames as a free agent in 2018.
They wound up skating on the same line for the latter stages of a shootout loss to the defending Stanley Cup champs.
“Obviously, a life-long friend,” Gaudreau said of Robinson, his high-school teammate with the Gloucester Catholic Rams. “Most of the American League teams that he’s been on, the NHL teams have been really good so he’s been struggling for call-ups throughout his career. It’s great to see him get a chance.
“He’s excited that he’s getting an opportunity tonight, and he deserves it.”
He earned it with a team-leading 16 goals so far this season with the Flames’ affiliate in Stockton, Calif.
Prior to Tuesday’s tilt, Robinson had totalled seven nights of NHL know-how, each of those on behalf of the Ottawa Senators in 2016.
His resume also includes stints as a farmhand for the Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks.
“We like a lot of things that he brings to the table,” said Flames interim coach Geoff Ward of Robinson. “He’s a big, rangy body. He plays hard. He can skate. He’s defensively responsible. And he does a good job around the opposition’s net and in the slot.
“So we think there’s something he can add.”
In his quest to stick at the Saddledome, Robinson has a couple things going for him.
He isn’t a thumper but at 6-foot-6 and 225 lb., he brings some size to Calgary’s cast.
He’s also a right-handed shot, and those are in short supply. (Besides Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan, the rest of the Flames’ forward regulars are lefties.)
Wearing No. 53, Robinson made a positive first impression with two shots and two hits in 15:31 of icetime against the Blues. He also sprung his pal on a breakaway, but Gaudreau was stopped.
“It’s still a dream of mine, since I was a kid, to be a full-time National League player and I don’t think I’m ever going to give that up,” Robinson said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “To be able to get a shot like this, this late in my career, it’s pretty special to me. I’m pretty excited. I’ll get the butterflies out in warm-ups and then just go out and play hockey, like I know how to.
“I’ll just do my best to fly around tonight and make an impression.”
— Wes Gilbertson
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