Wolves' Pirri making most of his shot with Golden Knights

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Vegas Golden Knights center Brandon Pirri, center, celebrates after scoring against New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, in Las Vegas.

    Vegas Golden Knights center Brandon Pirri, center, celebrates after scoring against New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Associated Press

 
 

When Brandon Pirri was called up from Rockford to play for the Blackhawks on Oct. 9, 2010, a flurry of phone calls and texts were made to announce the big news.

"Oh my God -- I've got to call everyone. I want everyone to watch," was the 19-year-old's reaction.

Fast forward eight years and it was an altogether different scene at the Pirri household when he was called up by the Vegas Golden Knights last week.

With his mother-in-law set to watch their 11-month-old son, Pirri and his wife were getting ready to enjoy a night out.

Then Pirri's phone rang … and a few hours later, he was on a plane to Vegas.

"My wife gets it. She's awesome," Pirri said. "She's a good support system and kind of knows what she signed up for. That was it for date night, I guess."

Pirri has been with the Chicago Wolves since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, deciding to sign here after a disappointing 8-goal campaign with the New York Rangers.

He helped lead the Wolves to a division title last season by pumping in 29 goals in just 57 games, and even scored three times after being called up by Vegas for the Golden Knights' final two contests.

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Despite those gaudy numbers, no NHL teams came calling, so Pirri came back to the Wolves. He picked up right where he left off and leads the AHL in scoring with 17 goals and 24 assists in 28 games.

Now -- because star forward Max Pacioretty is out with a lower-body injury -- Pirri is getting another chance at the highest level. He's certainly made the most of it so far -- scoring in a 4-2 victory over the Islanders on Thursday and adding 2 more goals in a 4-3 overtime loss to Montreal on Saturday.

"It's ridiculously loud," Pirri said of the atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena. "The fans are really into it. Scoring (against New York) kind of gave me chills. … You certainly have a lot more jump when the building's rocking like that."

Pirri had 15 shots attempts (8 on goal) in those two games while skating with top-six forwards like Alex Tuch, Paul Stastny and Reilly Smith.

"(Coach Gerard Gallant) always takes care of me when I'm up," said Pirri, who played for Gallant in Florida from 2014-16. "He knows what type of player I am. … Not a lot of call-ups get to play top-six minutes and in a top-six role.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"At the same time, I think I'm a lot more mature than when I was getting those calls in Chicago. Now I can live in the moment and play my game."

There's no doubt Pirri has always been a talented offensive force. He scored 22 times in just 49 games for the Panthers in 2014-15 and notched 14 more in 61 games for the Panthers and Ducks the next season.

After a disappointing 2016-17 campaign in New York, Pirri has scored 46 times in 85 games for the Wolves.

So even though he's thrilled to contribute offensively, Pirri made sure to stress that his overall game "was solid for 200 feet, which is important."

Initial reports said Pacioretty might be out 4-6 weeks, but Gallant indicated Friday that the injury doesn't appear to be long-term in nature.

If that's the case, Pirri's re-audition may not last long. But he's still going to do everything possible to make sure the Golden Knights -- and the rest of the league -- sees that "the old guy still has it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I've never doubted myself," Pirri said. "I've always thought I could play in the NHL. Unfortunately for me, it's not my decision to say, 'You know what? I should be in the NHL.'

"I've got to prove myself every night and hopefully someone takes a chance on me.

"Certainly (this) opportunity is everything. So I don't want to waste it."

• Twitter: @johndietzdh

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