Superior native hits the road after call from NHL

NEWARK, N.J. -- Superior's Mike Sislo has been waiting his whole life for the phone call that came Friday morning from Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, one that probably went something like this:...

Mike Sislo
Mike Sislo

NEWARK, N.J. -- Superior's Mike Sislo has been waiting his whole life for the phone call that came Friday morning from Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, one that probably went something like this:

"Kid, we're calling you up. You're playing tonight. You need to get to Newark right away."

Suddenly a first-time NHLer after playing for the American Hockey League's Albany Devils since late in the 2010-11 season, Sislo, who really isn't a kid at 25, packed a bag, hopped in his car and prayed Mother Nature's fury, or flurries,

wouldn't screw up one of the best days of his life.

The morning after a big snowfall, the drive down Interstate 87 was s-l-o-w, but Sislo plowed ahead along salted, snowy, icy roads that made driving conditions poor.


"I had to take my time," he said of his 3-plus hour drive that usually is 2-plus.

With a lot of time to think during his drive, his thoughts were simple:

"Stay on the road."

Sislo, who left around 9 and arrived after noon, learned to be patient during his fairly successful years as a Devils minor leaguer who never had been regarded as a top prospect.

Since signing with the Devils as a free agent after four seasons of elite-level college hockey at the University of New Hampshire, Sislo worked hard at his game, put up some decent numbers and waited for a chance.

It finally came Friday, a busy day and important night for the Devils.

Before hosting the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Devils decided that hurting-center Patrik Elias would sit out the weekend's two games ... Ryan Carter was ready to return from a knee injury on Friday ... it was time to give up on former No. 1 pick Mattias Tedenby ... and Sislo would be called up from the A-Devils to play on the fourth line against Chicago instead of grinder Cam Janssen, a move that would trade grit and toughness for speed and skill.

Sislo's NHL debut ended up being a successful failure: He did well contributing two shots, one hit and some steady two-way hockey in 8:29 of ice time over 16 shifts, but the Devils lost 5-3 to the Blackhawks.


"Obviously, there's some nerves," Sislo said afterward. "Your first game, you never really know what to expect. I just wanted to keep it simple, work hard and move my legs."

Mission accomplished, and then some. Sislo didn't score, but helped generate offense playing on a line that included Russian center Andrei Loktionov and fellow rookie Reid Boucher at left wing.

"Our fourth line I thought was one of our better lines," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "They definitely weren't the problem."

Sislo threatened to score late in the first when unleashing a hard one-timer from the low slot that was stopped by Chicago goalie Antti Raanta, and then had an opportunity in the second when he let loose on a 25-footer from the high slot that missed the net.

"I liked his game,"

DeBoer said. "He brings good energy and good speed. He's a big strong guy. He played well."

His night had a weird start. After his first shift, he skated to the Devils bench ... and then to the penalty box to serve a bench minor for too many men on the ice.

Earlier, Sislo looked around to soak it all in. During the pre-game skate, he couldn't help but notice all the big stars in road whites -- Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith.


"You know what?" he said. "You watch 'em on TV, and it's pretty cool to be on the same ice as them, but once the puck dropped, they were just opponents on the other team and you have to worry about what you have to do."

Sislo, called up after scoring nine goals and 20 points in 27 AHL games this season, did that well enough in his first NHL game to earn more looks. On Saturday night in Buffalo, Sislo took three shots during 7:37 of ice time. The Devils lost 2-1.

"Well, I wanted to come out and play simple, hard and smart," he said. "And do as well as I can. Show that I can play here and I belong here. I have the confidence that I can do it. I just have to work hard and show everyone else I can do it."

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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