Alex Nylander has put more than a few miles on his car in the last month.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled him five times and demoted him four times in Since March 7. Each of those transactions comes with a four-hour drive. There was last Thursday when he was recalled at around 2 p.m., and arrived at PPG Paints Arena a few hours later carrying a full package of sticks.
He was sent back to the WBS Penguins an hour later.
Nylander was again recalled the following day to make the trip with the team to Detroit. That time he got to play and scored one of the biggest goals of the Penguins season when he turned the momentum and staked the team a 1-0 lead later in the first period.
“Yeah, that was huge. It felt really nice,” said Nylander. “I had a couple of chances in the games when I played before and they didn’t go, and so I’m just really happy that that went in. We’ve got to keep going and keep shooting in the puck.”
At least PA is a beautiful state.
“Yeah, yeah. It’s beautiful,” Nylander said with a smile.
The drive is about four hours and almost exclusively highway for 267 miles from the Mohegan Sun Arena to PPG Paints Arena. I-81 runs past the arena in Wilkes-Barre, straight to I-80, then I-99. The fatest route from there is taking Rt. 22 from Altoona, but one can stay on I-80 and head south on Rt. 28 from Brookville at a cost of only 15 minutes.
“I have been doing a lot of driving back and forth and a lot of miles on my car, but it’s fine. I’m getting used to the drive, I guess,” Nylander said.
With so many trips back and forth, Nylander has probably taken a few just to break up the monotony, though he told PHN he hasn’t stopped anywhere along the way, including the Choke & Puke Diner in Loganton.
We understand why. And yes, that place really exists.
“They obviously have been talking to me and letting me know that this might happen and just be aware and be ready,” Nylander said. “So I’ve been on alert. And when I get called up, I’ve got to be ready. I’m really happy every time that I’m back up here and it shows that I’ve been doing things right. So just got to keep going.”
When he eventually trades in his car, he can honestly say those are highway miles.
Tuesday, the Penguins must beat the Chicago Blackhawks to keep control of their playoff fate and maintain the ability to clinch the club’s 17th consecutive playoff appearance with another win Thursday in Columbus.
Another Nylander almost helped the Penguins Monday. Nylander’s brother William and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers, but allowed the game to go to OT. The precious point that Floida gained put them two points ahead of the Penguins and delivered the inside track on the first wild card.
But the Capitals beat the Islanders to hand the Penguins control of the second wild card.
“I was watching my brother play Florida and I saw that they were down three zero the island out there. So that was. That’s really big for us. And they got one point. What they want to was huge to Florida. So we just got it in our hands and just got to win these two games and then we’re in. So that’s awesome”
Alex Nylander might get another shot in the Penguins lineup Tuesday. And perhaps in the playoffs. From the car miles to the goal in Detroit, and three years in the AHL, he’s paid the tolls.