13th Alaskan set to be on an NHL roster

Wallace: anchorage forward has been called up by penguins, now he waits to be written into lineup.

December 9, 2008 

After the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League practiced Tuesday, head coach Dan Bylsma called Tim Wallace of Anchorage into his office.

"I had no idea what he wanted to talk about,'' Wallace said by cell phone. "Maybe show me some video or something?

"He told me I was going up.''

That's hockey-speak. Layman's translation: Pack your gear, you're headed to the NHL.

Wallace, 24, was promoted to the Pittsburgh Penguins, which puts him on the brink of becoming the 13th Alaskan to skate in the world's best league.

Newark, N.J., never looked so good -- Pittsburgh plays the New Jersey Devils there tonight.

A player has to be in the 20-man lineup to officially become an NHLer, and Wallace on Tuesday had not yet learned if he'll be penciled in tonight -- he'll likely find out at the Penguins' morning skate today. Still, for an undrafted third-year pro whose rookie season included time in the ECHL, two rungs below the NHL on hockey's ladder, getting sent to the NHL for the first time is the promotion of a lifetime.

Like so many others in minor-league hockey, Wallace has occasionally wondered if he would ever hear the magic words.

"You try not to think about it too much,'' he said. "I just tried to get better on a day-in, day-out basis. You just hope to do well and stick up here.''

Six Alaskans, all from Anchorage, currently play in the NHL: New York Rangers centers Scott Gomez and Brandon Dubinsky, Detroit Red Wings goaltender Ty Conklin, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Matt Carle, Islanders center Nate Thompson and Atlanta Thrashers wing Joey Crabb, who made his NHL debut Nov. 28.

Wallace's parents, Janet and Todd, were scheduled to fly out of Anchorage on Tuesday and hopefully arrive in Newark in time for tonight's game.

"They're pretty excited,'' Tim said.

Wallace played for Service High and the Alaska All Stars -- he was known as Timmy Wallace then -- before leaving home at 16 to play two seasons in USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, based in Ann Arbor, Mich. He followed that by playing all 153 games in a four-year career at Notre Dame.

As a pro, Wallace has developed into a power forward known for delivering hard checks, contributing on the score sheet and fighting when the need arises.

After a slow start this season -- he didn't score a point and had a minus-5 plus-minus rating in his first seven games -- Wallace has scored four goals and three assists and earned a plus-3 rating in his last 14 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

In Pittsburgh, one of his teammates will be former Alaska Aces sniper Chris Minard, who was also one of Wallace's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton teammates the last two seasons.

Find Doyle Woody's blog online at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

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