Pirri tearing it up for Golden Knights
Second chances can be everything in life.
The key -- whether it's with a spouse, a good friend or an employer -- is to make the most of them.
In the sports world, true second chances are rare for veteran players who get labeled and spend more than a season in the minors.
But when they do occur, it's nice to see guys take advantage -- and that's exactly what Brandon Pirri has done with the Vegas Golden Knights since being called up after Max Pacioretty went down with an injury in mid-December.
Pirri scored against the Islanders on Dec. 20, added 2 more goals against Montreal on Dec. 22 and also scored in victories over Colorado, Arizona, Los Angeles and the Rangers.
If you lost track, that's 7 goals in just nine games. Only five players have more than that since Pirri was promoted, and he's also added 4 assists for a Golden Knights squad that is 6-1-2 with him in the lineup.
"This is a pretty good clip I'm at and I'd love for it to be sustainable, but I'm realistic," said Pirri, who should face the team that drafted him when Vegas plays the Blackhawks at the United Center on Saturday. "I'm a shoot-first player and things are going good, so I'm going to shoot a lot."
Pirri then pauses and adds: "If I wasn't scoring, I'd probably shoot it a little more. That's kind of the way I play."
Said Patrick Kane: "Happy for him. I trained with him a couple summers here. He's a good talent."
The Hawks selected Pirri in the second round of the 2009 draft, but his attitude and poor defensive play wore thin with coach Joel Quenneville and he was traded to Florida during the 2013-14 season. Pirri played 122 games for the Panthers and 60 more for the Rangers, then signed with the Chicago Wolves because his wife is from the area.
Pirri tore up the AHL last season, posting 29 goals in 57 games and returned to Chicago again after no serious offers came his way.
"Once you've been in the NHL and you spend an extended amount of time in the American League, it's (darn) near impossible (to get back) with how young the league is now," said the 27-year-old Pirri. "That's why having someone in your corner has given my career another chance."
That someone is Gerard Gallant, who coached Pirri in Florida. Gallant realizes Pirri still struggles at times defensively, but when someone is scoring almost a goal a game, it's awfully tough to keep him out of the lineup.
"He's put me in a position to succeed," said Pirri, who is in a top-six role and getting plenty of power-play time. "A guy puts his neck out for a journeyman, you want to repay him because you only get so many chances."
Vegas has tried to be careful with Pirri because once he plays 10 games as a nonemergency call-up, he can't be reassigned to the Wolves unless he clears waivers.
Pirri actually was sent back to Chicago in early January and scored a goal during the Wolves' game against San Antonio. A less mature Pirri may have moaned about such a move years ago, but time -- and perspective -- has a way of changing people.
"My family's in Chicago right now," said Pirri, who was able to be at his son's 1-year-old birthday party during that brief demotion. "If I'm sent back tomorrow, I get to spend time with my family and that's everything to me. ...
"Wherever I am, I get to play hockey for a living so it's a lot of fun."
No matter what happens down the road, Pirri has clearly opened plenty of eyes with his play on the ice. And he may have earned some respect of GMs around the league with his selfless attitude and leadership abilities off it.
"I've tried to be an older guy with the Wolves," Pirri said. "I try to tell guys, 'You're playing next to one of the biggest airports in the world. Scouts are going to watch every game, so you've got to try to impress someone and hopefully someone takes notice.'"
Lighting the lampMost goals since Dec. 20:
Player, team G
1. Johnny Gaudreau, Flames 11
2. Patrick Kane, HAWKS 9
2. Joonas Donskoi, Sharks 9
2. Mathew Barzal, Islanders 9
5. John Tavares, Maple Leafs 8
6. Brandon Pirri, Knights 7
6. Alex DeBrincat, HAWKS 7
6. Connor McDavid, Oilers 7
6. Leon Draisaitl, Oilers 7
6. Brayden Point, Lightning 7
6. Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs 7
6. Tyler Seguin, Stars 7