Billins relishing his first NHL experience as he waits to possibly suit up for the Flames
Abbotsford Heat leading goal scorer ready if his number is called
The Abbotsford Heat were on the road in Utica, N.Y., when Chad Billins found out he’d be joining the Calgary Flames in Chicago for his first big-league experience.
“It’s exciting,” said the Marysville, Mi., native was saying on Sunday at the United Center. “The stuff you dream about when you’re a little boy. It’s just an exciting time. If I get the opportunity to get in, I’ll be ready. then, I just have to stay focused and learn everything I can while I’m up here.”
With the Flames low on bodies for their current four-game road trip, they put defenceman Chris Breen (abdominal wall strain) and right wing er Lee Stempniak (broken foot) on the injured reserve to summon a player. And, when general manager Jay Feaster contacted Heat head coach Troy Ward to get a report on who would be a worthy candidate, the obvious choice was Billins who was leading the Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate with five goals.
“It’s always the philosophy of the entire organization,” said head coach Bob Hartley. “We tell them what we’re looking for and it’s based on reward. The player who has been the most consistent, the player who looks like what we’re looking for gets the call.”
A free agent signing, Billins had just won the Calder Cup with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins when the Flames signed him this summer. The undrafted 24-year-old had a four-year stint with the Ferris State Bulldogs before making the jump to the pro ranks, his first season being the successful 2012-13 campaign.
But the Flames’ four-game tour of the National Hockey League’s Central Division — which includes also stops in Minnesota, St. Louis, and Colorado — is his first stint in the Show.
“It’s what you work for and it’s exciting,” Billins said. “It’s a thrill when you first hear the words you’re getting called up. You get kind of nervous but you have to stay focused. If you get the opportunity, you have to make the most of it.”
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