TORONTO – Eric Gryba couldn’t help feeling nervous in his first NHL game.
With Ottawa’s star defenceman Erik Karlsson out for the season, Gryba was among three players the Senators recalled from the American Hockey League to bolster the injury-plagued team.
Gryba said he tried his best to not get overwhelmed by the moment.
“I tried to keep it out of my mind as much as possible, but that definitely popped into my head a couple times,” he said after the Ottawa Senators 3-0 loss to the Maple Leafs. “The first time when I saw Phaneuf in the warmup go across the blue-line right by the red line past me, I thought, ‘Hey, there goes Dion Phaneuf.’ That was pretty cool.”
Ottawa also called up forwards David Dziurzynski and Derek Grant from the Sens’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton.
Gryba, a six-foot-four, 222-pound defenceman, was dominating the AHL defensively, leading the league in plus-minus with a plus-28 rating before joining the Sens.
“He came in and played the way that he can play,” said head coach Paul MacLean. “We thought he had a real solid game in his first game in the league. We’re pleased with how he looked and he’ll get better.”
Ottawa drafted Gryba out of Boston University in the third round, 68th overall in 2006. He finished his four-year collegiate career as the Terriers all-time leader in penalty minutes with 354.
His first taste of the pros came in six games with Binghamton in 2009-10 after his season with Boston University finished. The next year, he was part of the Senators’ run to its first Calder Cup title. He was named the team’s rookie of the year.
Gryba, 24, is the latest in a string of players from that team who have graduated to the big club since winning the AHL championship.
“I counted before the game that I’ve played with 13 of these guys already in Binghamton before, so there’s a lot of familiar faces,” Gryba said. “And the veterans have been more than welcoming, so it’s been really good.”
The most senior of those veterans, captain Daniel Alfredsson, had high praise for the team’s newest addition to the blue-line.
“Gryba, especially, down on the back end was poised and made good plays,” Alfredsson said. “He played physical and was impressive.”