The temptation of Ottawa’s third line, a whirlwind existence for Fisher, and Alfredsson’s sympathy for Redden, but first. . .
While Nick Foligno has provided the “wow,” Senators management surprised no one Monday when separating training campers into two groups that will soon officially be known as Ottawa’s NHL team and its Binghamton-bound farm boys.
Predictably, the battle for the temporary job as Filip Kuba’s replacement on the blue line appears to be winding down to veteran David Hale and first-round pick Jared Cowen, while rookie Patrick Wiercioch has been clumped with the Baby Sens.
“It’ll be close,” coach Cory Clouston said when asked if the newly formed ‘Group 1’ was what the Buffalo Sabres could expect to see in the season-opener Oct. 8 at Scotiabank Place. “That doesn’t mean the guys who aren’t practising with us today have no hope. We’re going to play some of those young guys at least two more games. We did this basically to work on a few things we wanted to make sure we had enough time to do, and get ourselves ready for the weekend (in a home-and-away series with the New York Rangers that ends Ottawa’s pre-season schedule), where we’re going to use more of our team.”
While debate about lines looms large, there is but one possible roster spot up for grabs.
Forward line selections still up in the air, Senators taking stock of Gryba’s assets, and Dundas prepares to host the Senators and Sabres, but first. . .
From the Ottawa Citizen, on the growing confidence in Ottawa’s players,
Has captain Daniel Alfredsson bounced back from the hernia condition that slowed him down in the playoffs? CHECK.
Alfredsson was flying in his first preseason outing. No worries here, people. Move along.
Early signs of a new and improved power play with Sergei Gonchar, ex-Pittsburgh Penguin, dishing passes from the point? CHECK.
Gonchar conducts some sweet music on the point; so fluid, drifting in from the line, comfortable everywhere, including behind the opposition net, then flowing back again.
Without any warning flags being hoisted high into the sky, things could not be calmer, could they?
The final pre-season auditions, Leclaire ready after a non-injured off-season, the quiet passion of Ottawa fans, and remembering Ottawa’s one-time financially motivated trades, but first. . .
“Healthy competition is good,” Clouston said Thursday. “Nobody has solidified themselves in that spot at all. Peter will get a chance (Friday night). He’ll have to make good of it. And Nick will get a chance.”
Foligno has already made a strong impression in training camp, scoring in the Senators first two exhibition games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and impressing with strong forechecking and excellent penalty killing.
“I’m just playing,” Foligno said. “Last year, I was just thinking about every single aspect of the game, and now I’m just trying to play the game the way I know how and have for so long. I’m just comfortable. I put the work in during the summer and things seem to be going my way a little bit.”
“Peter [Regin] is a heck of a hockey player and deserves to play with those guys and continue where he left off,” he said. “I thought he had a great end of the year last year and showed what I always knew about him. Whether it’s Peter or I, or playing together, or on separate lines, we need to be the good young players for this team.”
For all the hard work that Regin and Foligno might show, the choice may ultimately depend on neither of them.
Ottawa’s plans in the crease, Ryan Shannon thugged, Pierre McGuire nearly gets KO-ed, and Mike Fisher’s true value, but first. . .
“Early on, I think we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with the penalties, but we kind of settled things down and by the third, for myself personally, I was seeing the puck a little better,” said Elliott. “Just kind of playing confident and cool in there. Just kind of getting jitters out at the start. I felt I ended the game on a good note, so that’s what you want to do.
Disconcerting, however, were the familiar flaws in Elliott’s game. He was worst on the deflating Nikolai Kulemin goal that opened the scoring for Toronto four minutes into the game. A soft point shot by Jesse Blacker was redirected into Elliott, but the goalie could not get his glove on it before Kulemin poked it home.
“It”s pre-season and you’ve got to learn from your mistakes. Sort things out with the D-men as well,” said Elliott. “But, for the most part, I think we played all right. They obviously had a more offensive lineup than (Tuesday).”
The big lesson from Wednesday? Too many rookies spoils the broth, err, roster.
The eternal well of hope that is Sergei Gonchar, the tougher choices ahead for Matt Carkner, Don Cherry’s high expectations of Ottawa, a couple rookies head back to the juniors, and one all-around admirable prospect, but first. . .
“I don’t think there was one guy that I could say I was disappointed in,” Clouston said. “I think there were some players who played a little better than others, but, overall, it was a good team effort.
“That’s what we want … we want tough decisions. We want guys to make us sit around after the game and debate who played well and who played better, and who deserves another game and maybe who doesn’t.
“I felt pretty calm,” Lehner said. “I got a lot of help from the team, though. We played five guys forward and all the five guys were back helping me defend, too.
“It’s really comfortable when you have that kind of (defence) playing in front of you. I saw every puck. There were a couple of hard ones, but that’s what hockey is.”
A lot to like about the performance, but still plenty of proving left before the season opens.
Young and old roster jostling, the pre-season begins, jersey number hidden meaning, and Alfie’s camp preferences, but first. . .
Cowen, the Senators’ first pick in 2009, says his camp has been “okay” thus far. Others think maybe a notch below.
“For sure, there’s lots of distractions, lots of little comments from people that kind of get in your head sometimes,” said the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. “The biggest thing is just to get out there and play the way I usually play.”
“Obviously the goal is to make the team. I think you come here and have anything less, you’re not going to play at all. If I do get sent back, I understand. It’s the National Hockey League. It’s obviously not easy to make. I expect it be nothing less than hard. Whatever happens, happens, I guess.”
Wiercioch was the team’s best defenceman at the rookie tournament. His strength is the transition game, moving the puck, but the Senators would like to see him start executing quicker.
“I’m an offensive-minded defenceman, but I need to prove I can hold my own in my own end. Do the best I can do with that, and possibly chip in here and there offensively.”
Aside from the crowd on the blue line, there is a more obvious reason for the rookies to try to shine in their own end.
Expectations high for Gonchar, the ice issues early on at the Bank, advantages of new glass and boards, Regin’s sophomore goals, Wick’s North American transition, Ottawa’s more tenured goaltending addition, and the Citizen’s blog transition, but first. . .
“We’re real disappointed for Filip,” Murray said at the Bell Sensplex, where the Senators held Day 2 of training camp. “He looked great in the couple of days I came over (to the Bell Sensplex) and watched him skate. I know he’s frustrated that (the injury) would happen but I guess if it’s going to happen, it’s better to happen early and if he gets it out of the way, then he comes back and has a great season.
“He did get caught in a rut and all the weight, as he turned, was on one leg and he got a fracture because of it,” said Murray. “It’s just one of those things that happens sometimes. It’s certainly disappointing for a veteran player that had prepared himself to come back after surgery. And then for this to happen.”
“There are a couple of defencemen (for whom) it’s an opportunity we couldn’t have predicted,” said Clouston. “We’ve just got to make the best of it as a team so that when Filip is back, other guys have maybe had a better opportunity and allowed us to see what they can do.”
And so it begins. For a team not set in net and just as up in the air on the blue line, this might not even be the best time for the team to take this hit.
Some light Friday news before Senators camp and my camping, on Leclaire’s new chance, competition from youth, the hope for Binghamton, and the search for a reliable team effort, but first. . .
He has trained hard this summer — “differently,” not with the cookie-cutter program but one designed to target his weaknesses, which he declines to name (a bad back, first-step quickness?).
“First of all, he’s in great shape,” Clouston says. “I spoke with him (Thursday) morning back at the rink. Real good attitude, excited about the season — to get going. To me, he’s in the best mental frame that I’ve seen since I’ve been in the organization — and we’re excited for him.”
Clouston agrees that the playoff catcalls might, to an extent, have helped Spezza.
“Any time you face a little bit of adversity, if you handle it the right way, you’re going to be a better person for it,” Clouston says. “I mean, you’d have to ask him how he approached that, but just by talking to him, the condition he’s in, the mind frame he’s in, I think he has handled it the exact way we wanted him to.”
There should never have been any doubt that Spezza would be back this fall.
Alfredsson’s All-Star memories, Lee’s (possibly) last shot, Kovalev’s career goal, and Michalek’s confident recovery, but first. . .
In addition to the all-star game on the final day, the four days of festivities will also include a young stars game — for rookies and second-year players — and a skills competition, both also at Scotiabank Place, an interactive showcase for fans at the soon-to-be-completed convention centre in downtown Ottawa, a “legends” game of shinny on the Rideau Canal and numerous other events tied into Winterlude.
He also said the city has a unique opportunity to put its own stamp on the all-star game by linking it to Winterlude, one of the world’s largest winter festivals, and he congratulated Melnyk and Leeder “for making such a compelling bid for what we believe is a marquee event.”
The event secure, only two potential points of contention arise.
Rookie Tournament player reviews, Kuba’s recovery for the season ahead, and Foligno’s battle for better results, but first. . .
Power-play goals by Mike Hoffman and Eric Condra in the third period lifted the Senators past the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Tuesday night at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont. It was the rookie tournament finale for both teams and for the second straight game, the Senators used a rally in the final 20 minutes to earn the victory.
On Sunday, the Senators trailed 3-1 after two period but erupted for six goals in the third to cruise past the Chicago Blackhawks 7-3. The deficit was only 2-1 tonight but Ottawa showed the right kind of finish one more time.
“The best part was, we battled,” said Binghamton Senators assistant coach Steve Stirling, who was behind the bench with B-Sens head man Kurt Kleinendorst. “Two nights ago, we fell behind (against the Hawks) with not a great goal in the second period. We had a little bit of adversity again today. A good first period, (but) the second period we got a little lazy and we were behind coming into the third. Then we came out and played hard. So there were a lot of positives.”
With a 2-1-0 record and a 13-10 goal differential, the main camp roster is now set, and the reviews are in.
Native of Northern California. Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.
I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle. I watch, I react, I write it down.
My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked. I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind. When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom. It hasn't, I don't think it will. At all.
Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.
I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.
I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org