That was a Super Bowl that rookie Aaron Ness "will remember for a while now," he said.
Not because of any last-second drama, or who won. Rather, because of the phone call the 21-year-old Ness got just before kickoff on Sunday, asking him to report to the Islanders for his possible NHL debut Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
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"Pretty good news," Ness said. "Pretty surprising. Pretty cool."
With the loss of two defensemen in two games last week -- Milan Jurcina suffered a lacerated elbow Friday night and Travis Hamonic's nose was broken by a deflected puck Saturday night -- the Islanders made an emergency call to their Bridgeport affiliate for Ness.
Ness, along with another recent Bridgeport call-up, forward Rhett Rakhshani, were the only two in the Islanders' Coliseum locker room who don't have a photo of themselves above their dressing stalls. (There are Islander logos instead.) But they are full-fledged members of the team, however temporarily.
On Monday, during his first practice, Ness was paired with 34-year-old veteran Mark Eaton, who has broken in a few partners in his 12 NHL seasons with four teams. "Communication is the key," Eaton said, "but anybody at this level knows the game well."
Jurcina resumed skating on his own Monday, with no timetable for his return, and Hamonic could be lost for two weeks. Islanders coach Jack Capuano said the staff is "still evaluating" how Ness might be used, but he described him as "a guy that can move the puck; he's got quick feet, he can skate, so hopefully he can jump into the play and give us a little of a four-man attack."
A Roseau, Minn., native, Ness played three years for the University of Minnesota before turning pro last March and finished the season with a goal and three assists in 13 games for Bridgeport. This season, he had two goals and 15 assists in 46 games for Bridgeport.
Finding himself on an NHL team is something Ness "thought about, I guess" after a strong preseason camp with the Islanders. "You play every day and that's obviously the end goal, the end of the tunnel," he said. "So it's exciting to be here."
But while with Bridgeport, he said, he concentrated "on those games, that team," which has won 11 of its last 13 games. "That's who you're with. You play for each other, and if you're lucky enough to get a chance up here, you've got to take full advantage of it."
Now's the time. Football season is over.