Three weeks ago, Cory Stillman and Charlotte Checkers forward Zack Boychuk sat down for lunch in Toronto.
The Checkers were in the midst of a 5-game losing streak and the 'Canes director of forward development had noticed the tough stretch take its toll on Boychuk’s game.
With 16 years of NHL experience and 3 Stanley Cups under his belt, Stillman offered advice to his frustrated winger.
“Fake it if you need to,” he said.
Through 14 games, Boychuk had just 3 goals, and one glance at the 24-year-old told you everything you needed to know about the direction the season had been going.
“He made me realize that you have to be excited to come to the rink every day,” said Boychuk. “It was kind of just a wakeup call for me to realize that if you’re not motivated – if you’re not excited – it doesn’t help your game.
“There was a point there where it was tough losing every day and (my) legs weren’t going,” he added. “He’s been through that before – and he just said come to the rink, be excited. If you’re having a tough morning just fake it and look happy.”
Stillman reiterated that the 'Canes hadn’t given up on their 2008 1st round pick (14th).
Boychuk has been on one of the hottest streaks of his career since (7g in last 10 games).
Following his 2-goal performance in Thursday's 3-2 overtime win, the 'Canes rewarded him with an emergency call up Friday.
Before Friday’s first period had come to a close, he’d already made an impact, assisting on the ‘Canes first goal in a 5-3 win over the Sharks.
A high-level scout on hand for the game, credited Boychuk with creating the scoring chance.
“The goal was set up by him moving the puck to the point and then crashing towards the net,” the scout said. “He got in front of the goalie and really caused him to have a hard time.
“In the past when I’ve seen (Boychuk), he’s had a tendency to sort of float around,” the scout added. “He skated hard and used his legs.”
Following the game, Boychuk learned he’d be heading back to Charlotte for on Saturday.
“('Canes VP Ron) Francis said that was the best game that he’s seen me play ever with Carolina,” said Boychuk. “It was a nice thing for him to say. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to build on that.”
When Brendan Woods netted the Checkers' first goal on on Saturday, Teddy Bears cascaded onto the ice as part of a Toys for Tots promotion.
Boychuk skated around helping to clear the ice with his stick and a smile, no faking required.