After sitting out six of the previous seven games - and more than he had played in the season overall, Mike Testwuide made it into the lineup Saturday against Manchester... as a center.
In all his years of playing hockey, Testwuide had never played center. But he knew this was his chance to make an impression and make his case for more ice time.
"(Head coach Terry Murray) kinda threw a curveball at me when I came in and looked at the lineup and I was a centerman," Testwuide said. "Sometimes shaking up things like that you have to think about positioning – I’ve never been in those positions, I’ve never really been a centerman. It was kinda cool to feel the puck a little bit more and get some opportunities with the puck.
"Coming into the lineup, I just wanted to contribute, get some energy for the guys, take some minutes away from the guys who are logging 20-plus minutes," he said. "If we can get a couple minutes away from them I think they’ll stay fresher. I think it paid off."
Testwuide did that and more. He scored his second goal of the season and may have had another - both he and Tyler Brown tipped a shot by Danny Syvret; Brown was credited with the goal but both players said Testwuide may have touched it last but that it was going in either way.
Murray has said that he looks for some ugly goals from his fourth line, the type that someone slams home and creates some energy. Testwuide's wasn't one of those - it was the kind of goal you expect from the top lines.
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"He took a look, got a play from Dimmen, walks in, picks his head up and hits the far corner," Murray said. "It was a great shot, it was a NHL shot. He put a lot behind it and it was nice to see him get that kind of a look."
Testwuide was part of the breakdown in the defensive zone that lead to Manchester's game-winning goal, but there was much more positive than negative in his game.
"There’s a lot of skating going on for the guys who are out of the lineup, Testwuide in particular," Murray said. "He gets his opportunity and he came up big time here tonight – lots of not only scoring, but there was good energy and used his size and strength, moved the puck well, held onto the puck and carried it. I liked what he gave us."
Before Saturday, Testwuide had played only 10 of 24 games and had scored one goal and taken eight shots. Against the Monarchs, he took four shots and scored one goal. He was a big part of the forecheck - something Murray has stressed that the whole team needs to improve. Having spent so much time off the ice, Testwuide had something to prove. And prove it he did.
"You dream about that, coming into the lineup you think about that nonstop," he said. " 'When I get in the lineup, I gotta do something, I gotta make an impression, I gotta do the things that Coach is telling me to do, - be strong on the pucks, recover pucks in the corner and maybe chip in a few goals here and there.' It really feels good and gotta keep going. Hopefully I stay in there."