Mark Alt fights off nerves in NHL debut with Flyers

By Tom Dougherty, CSNPhilly.com

Mark Alt learned Friday night he might make his NHL debut Saturday against San Jose.

“I got a call from our head coach (Terry Murray) at Lehigh last night,” Alt said after Saturday afternoon’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Sharks.

“We weren’t really sure at that point if I was going to be coming here or not, but I knew then so I kind of just waited through the night and this morning I got the call to come here.”

Alt was recalled from the Phantoms along with defenseman Oliver Lauridsen and forward Jason Akeson before Saturday’s game because Mark Streit and Carlo Colaiacovo were out with the flu. Both Alt and Lauridsen played, while Akeson served as the 13th forward.

Shortly after game’s end, the trio was sent back to Lehigh Valley, as the Flyers have three days off before their next game, Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Being thrown into a situation like this wasn’t easy for Alt or Lauridsen, but head coach Craig Berube thought they fared well.

“It’s tough for them,” Berube said. “It’s Alt’s first game in the NHL. It’s not easy, but I thought early on he was nervous, but he got pretty comfortable and started doing things.”

The 23-year-old played a defense-low 9:25 against San Jose and showed his nerves in the first period. On the Sharks’ first goal, Alt weakly played the puck in the corner of his own zone, and then chased Sharks forward Chris Tierney around, allowing Tierney to get a quality chance.

Tierney’s shot didn’t go in, but Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin’s offering seconds later did. But that was the low point for Alt in his first game. Later in the period, he separated the puck from a Shark with a clean check, and then smartly passed it to one of his forwards and then out of the zone.

“It took a few shifts, always,” Alt said about butterflies. “But as soon as you get a few shifts in, you settle down, the game slows down. I had some fun.”

Alt started the game with Nicklas Grossmann as his defensive partner, but did end up playing with Lauridsen, which he said made his first NHL game go over a little bit smoother.

“I think to our advantage, too, me and Oliver have played with each other before so we kind of know what the other is going to do,” Alt said. “I’m used to playing with him. It actually made it easier in a sense because I knew what to expect from him as a D partner.”

As for Lauridsen, the 6-foot-6 blueliner had his first cup of coffee since the 2012-13 season when he skated in 15 games, scoring two goals and an assist. He was previously called up this season, but he didn’t see any game action. The nerves weren’t as prevalent for him as they were for Alt.

“Still a little bit,” Lauridsen said. “First (NHL) game in a long time. There was a little bit of experience to rely on, but not a whole lot.”

Lauridsen’s day came to an end in the third period when he received a 10-minute game misconduct along with Sharks forward John Scott after the two big men tangled following Nick Cousins’ hit on Scott Hannan. The Dane played 10:26 and was a minus-1 against San Jose.

“I feel like those are starting to be more common, both here and in the American league that they’re going dishing out the misconduct penalties to kind of settle things down,” Lauridsen said.

With Alt and Lauridsen accounting for only 19:51 of a possible 65:00 minutes, Michael Del Zotto played a career-high 30:18 and 24-year-old Brandon Manning logged 25:07. Manning was called up for the fourth time this season Thursday and played in his fifth game of the season.

Manning benefited from the extra minutes available, and with two AHL defensemen called upon on such short notice, he earned a larger role in the Flyers’ game plan.

“With the two guys out today, he’s the veteran guy down there to put the minutes up,” Berube said. “You don’t want Alt and Lauridsen to come in like that and play that many minutes, and Manning has been up a little bit. He’s done a good job and he handled himself well.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: See the story on CSNPhilly.com)

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