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 WINGS CORNER: Ellis answers call of lifetime, on 3rd try 
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Post WINGS CORNER: Ellis answers call of lifetime, on 3rd try
Sipple wrote:
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Grand Rapids Griffins forward Matt Ellis got the call of a lifetime Monday. He just didn't answer it the first two times it came.

Ellis was called up to the Red Wings on Monday afternoon to replace Mikael Samuelsson (groin pull). Ellis, who wore No. 8, made his NHL debut in a 4-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets that night. He played six shifts for a total of 4:55.

Earlier Monday, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland left a message on Ellis' cell phone telling him he had been called up. Griffins general manager Bob McNamara left a similar message for Ellis.

Ellis was tired from a road trip and wasn't quick to answer any calls. Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill finally got through by calling Ellis at his home number.

"We got in around 3 in the morning from Milwaukee last night," Ellis said after Monday's game. "Slept in a little bit. Got a phone call around noon, and I had my cell phone still on vibrate because I was a little tired."

He found out about the cell-phone messages later. "It was Jim that I actually talked to and got the news," Ellis said.

He quickly packed and went straight to the airport for a flight to Columbus.

"I've been working my whole life to get this opportunity," said Ellis, a 25-year-old native of Welland, Ontario. "Words can't explain how excited I was and how honored I was tonight to put that jersey on and play with some of these guys. It was an amazing feeling."

The hectic turn of events ended up being a good thing.

"I didn't have much time to sit and think about things," Ellis said. "It was a great day. Would have been nice to win tonight, but still it's something I've dreamed of my whole life."

Ellis played four seasons for Toronto St. Michael's of the Ontario Hockey League and signed with the Wings as an undrafted free agent on May 10, 2002. He played for the Toledo Storm in 2002-03 and for the Griffins the past three seasons.

"He's a hard-working kid," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "He's providing leadership, doing all the right things and being a good pro down in Grand Rapids. That's what we expect. That's why he's being rewarded.

"We just never really gave him a chance to be effective tonight. In saying that to you, when he was out there, he was fine."

NOTEBOOK: Babcock said he'd have a better read on Samuelsson's availability for tonight's home game against the Blue Jackets at the morning skate. Babcock gave everyone -- including the trainers and locker-room staff -- the day off Tuesday. ... Samuelsson acknowledged the groin injury has bothered him in recent games, although he doesn't anticipate missing much time. "Didn't feel great today, so we decided to do this," Samuelsson said of sitting out Monday night.

Contact GEORGE SIPPLE at 313-223-4796 or gsipple@freepress.com.

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December 20th, 2006, 11:29 am
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