David Hale stakes his claim over Jared Cowen, and Ruutu looks to let his play dictate his contract year decisions, but first. . .
The timing is perfect for the Ottawa Senators as they head to CFB Petawawa on Monday. They need some basic training.
After the shoddy defensive effort in Saturday’s 8-5 victory over the New York Rangers to conclude their National Hockey League preseason schedule — “It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure,” head coach Cory Clouston said — the Senators have plenty of work to do in preparation for Friday’s regular-season opener against the Buffalo Sabres.
Foremost among the issues is goaltending. It was worrisome for the Senators that Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott took turns allowing at least one bad goal per game early in training camp. Now it has gone from bad to worse, with Leclaire looking lost in the net on Saturday, allowing five goals on 30 shots.
Nine goals against in the last two pre-season games looks ugly, but it’s not where you’ll find the best representation of what you’ll see come Friday.
Ottawa showing no favourites in battle for starting goaltender, Shannon battles for likely last shot with Sens, and Kleinendorst’s confidence in the AHL squad from Binghamton’s new beat reporter, but first. . .
From the Ottawa Citizen, on the silent rise of David Hale’s stock,
David Hale might as well have been invisible when the Ottawa Senators opened training camp. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar. He was just another one of those names destined for Binghamton.
“Solid, very solid,” said Clouston. “He kind of quietly goes about his business. He’s reliable. I didn’t know completely what to expect of him. I don’t want to say (he’s been) a pleasant surprise, because I don’t want to undermine him. I think in his mind he came to make the team. But he’s been good for us.
“David right now is trying to get into the group. He’s done all he can do. We’ll see how it all unfolds. But he’s made a pretty good statement here to at least stay until the start of the season.”
In all the excitement about youth, it’s the veteran who has made the statement, and reminded us what the Sens currently need.
Kovalev still excited for the game, and willing to throw out only his fourth ever fight (every team gets one), but first. . .
For fans of the Ottawa Senators anxiously trying to get a read on the 2010-11 version of their National Hockey League team, that was what Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs handed them.
[A]fter overcoming a 2-0 deficit and taking a 3-2 lead early in the third period, the Senators allowed two goals in the final six minutes to drop their preseason record to 2-4.
“It’s unfortunate to lose a game that way,” [Leclaire] said. “We were in pretty good shape and then it kind of slipped away from us. A couple of bounces. The third goal was kind of a weird bounce, and then the last it got tipped or something in front.
“It’s always [frustrating], but there were some good things as well, and we’ll move and learn from our mistakes. Bad bounces are better now than next week, I guess.”
The story of the game will be exuberance, only it needs to be less parts youthful and foolish for the season ahead.
Where do we fit in?
That is the question bloggers have been trying to answer, and that the NHL and its teams have been trying to sort out, looking rather discombobulated in their varied approaches. Currently under discussion is a new credentialing policy, leaked by Yahoo! Sports, which according to different sources seems to be under closer scrutiny at this point. Officially they are rules of thumb for teams wondering how to get into blogger credentialing, and the individual teams would appear to control their buildings and access to them at the moment.
But really, what is it that the League has to be afraid of, and what consequences of credentialed blogger actions are they envisioning?
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.
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 email@example.com