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Wolves' Doell enjoyed a taste of NHL action
By Scott J. Powers | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 1/26/2008 12:33 AM

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It was 4 p.m. on Jan. 3 that Kevin Doell got the phone call he had been waiting for most of his life.

On the line was Atlanta Thrashers assistant general manager Larry Simmons. Doell was being promoted to the NHL for the first time in his career. The catch: he had a 6:30 p.m. flight out of O'Hare, and he would have to fight his way through rush-hour traffic from Lincoln Park to get there.

"I threw some stuff in a bag," Doell said. "With Chicago traffic, I just got there in time."

It was the beginning of a three-week adventure that Doell will never forget.

Before being sent back to the Wolves on Monday, he played in eight NHL games, recorded his first assist, picked up 2 penalties, had to go clothes shopping for his extended stay in Atlanta, and even had his sister visit him in Chicago while he was gone.

"I was called up on the third; she was coming on the ninth," Doell said. "I had no idea if I was going to be back or how long I would go. She decided to still come with her husband and kid. I had to FedEx my car keys to them so they would have something to drive. They still went to the Wolves games."

His first NHL game was in Atlanta against the Carolina Hurricanes. He played 13 shifts and just under 10 minutes.

"I was definitely nervous before the game," said Doell, who is in his fifth season with the Wolves. "I was pacing a little bit around in the dressing room, couldn't sit. When I got out there, my legs were moving 100 mph, trying to hit everything around. It didn't last too long. It made me tired really quick.

"You see the players you've watched over the years. There's maybe a little bit of an awe factor. But you have to go out and do your job. If that means hitting someone you grew up watching, so be it."

Doell settled down after his first game and became a valuable center on the Thrashers' fourth line.

He had to wait until the second week for his first assist. Of all places, it came in Joe Louis Arena against the Detroit Red Wings.

"That was pretty cool to play in that rink and the history," Doell said. "I celebrated liked I scored the goal. It was petty funny."

Doell played in two more games, was a healthy scratch for one, and then was sent back down to the Wolves.

For many, it's a disappointment to be back in the AHL. For Doell, he realized it was inevitable.

"I knew once they were healthy that I would be coming back down," Doell said. "It was a matter of how many games I got to play and how soon they got healthy. It's day to day, game to game, you don't really know. You've got to work that much harder to stay up there. If the opportunity comes to get called up again, you don't want them to be afraid to call you."

Hopefully the second call will give him more time to get to the airport.