Down to crunch time

- September 30th, 2014

WINNIPEG _ Just got into the MTS Centre.
The Senators have three exhibition games left, three chances to decide what is next for them as far as cuts go.
I’m not sure there are a lot of big decisions. Most are obvious.
Matt Puempel is being given a big chance tonight. He will play on the top line against Winnipeg with Mika Ziibanejad and Alex Chiasson. Good chance for the kid. He deserves it.
Paul MacLean has liked him since he saw him in London at the rookie tournament. Really good chance Puempel could be a callup.
I reallly think the Senators will need to decide what to do with Mike Hoffman and JG Pageau at the end of camp. Pageau is on a two-way so he can go down and be recalled. Hoffman could get picked up by Buffalo on waivers if the club decides to send him through.
“Other than the fact that puck goes in the net when he shoots it? That’s what I like about him,” said MacLean with a smile. “His attention to his fitness level. When you hear (strength coach) Chris Schwarz talk about (that) he’s a fine example of the dedication to that work.
“(His) skating, his fitness, his work, has come a long way in a short time. Right now, he’s giving a good account of himself. The puck goes in the net. That’s the biggest thing. Even in practice, the puck goes in the net for him.”
l LEBRETON FLATS: Interesting announcement from the NCC people. Should make for plenty of speculation about the Senators building an arena there. My take: It piques the club’s interest but it is a long way off. Not sure they’d even be interested in making a bid to build an arena there. Plenty of upgrades at Canadian Tire Centre _ including some with suites next year.

The dog days

- September 27th, 2014

The Senators are in those tough, long days of camp.
Today is a practice and followed by a scrimmage.
The easiest cuts have been made and the toughest decisons are ahead for GM Bryan Murray, coach Paul MacLean and the staff.
The final three exhibition games will decide where everybody fits.
Up front, the top two lines look pretty much settled, depending on Milan Michalek’s injury. It will be MacArthur-Turris-Ryan while Michalek-Zibanejad-Chiasson looks like the second unit.
From there, it gets a little sketchy, but Greening-Legwand-Smith seems to make sense. Maybe move Smith to the middle.
Naturally, the biggest decision at the end of camp will be with Curtis Lazar. If he’s going to play nine minutes a night on the fourth line, should he stay here? That’s what the Senators have to decide in the next seven days.
By this time next week, the roster will pretty much be settled. The start of the season is not far away. The club holds its last scrimmage today and then practice for the season really begins.
I’d anticipate we will see more cuts in the next couple of days because Binghamton is scheduled to go to Lyon, France Monday.

Senators make first big cut

- September 25th, 2014

Here’s how the Ottawa Senators lined up at practice Thursday after the team’s major roster cutdown.

Craig Anderson
Robin Lehner

Fredrik Claesson-Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen-Cody Ceci
Chris Phillips-Patrick Wiercioch
Mark Borowiecki-Eric Gryba
Injured: Marc Methot

Clarke MacArthur-Kyle Turris-Bobby Ryan
Matt Puempel-Mika Zibanejad-Alex Chiasson
Colin Greening-David Legwand-Chris Neil
Mike Hoffman-Zack Smith-Mark Stone
David Dziurzynski-Curtis Lazar-Buddy Robinson
Injured: Milan Michalek, Erik Condra, Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Discuss among yourselves.

Time to dance

- September 24th, 2014

Never one to be a proponent of hockey fights – okay, sometimes … often – I’m seeing the potential for a scrap or two in the Senators game against the Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre Wednesday night.
The Leafs aren’t bringing a lot of their skilled players on their visit in the nation’s capital – Phil Kessell, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri are among those staying home to play the Senators at ACC at the same, bat time, different bat channel – but in tow will be Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren, the two toughest Buds in the bunch.
Orr and McLaren are trying desperately to land a spot on the NHL roster this season, and it sounds like the former is on the bubble while the latter needs something of a miracle to happen.
Meanwhile, making his pre-season debut in this one for the Senators will be Chris Neil, who told us this morning everything is now fine with the “family matters” that prevented him from attending training camp in Newfoundland last weekend.
Mark Borowiecki will also be in the lineup, and available to give Neil a helping hand, should things turn nasty.
Testing the waters (which is what I do), I asked Neil if playing Toronto, even if it is just a pre-season game, gets his blood boiling as much as ever.
He wouldn’t bite.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, obviously pre-season is a chance to either play with some of the guys you haven’t played with before, and get to know them,” said Neil. “That’s what it’s about.
“Getting your systems down as well.”
Okay, but when you see a Maple Leafs sweater, do you get the urge to throw a coffee on it or something?
“Like I said, when you put that (Senators) jersey on, you look around the room and those are the guys you’re playing for,” said Neil. “That’s how I’ve got to look at it.
“Obviously, being close rivals it doesn’t take much to get up for the game either, but for me, I try to get up for every game.”
Neil did add that getting his game ready means running into a few opponents. He needs to get his timing right for all the hitting he does during the regular season.
As a 35-year-old who has scrapped more than any other player in Senators history, he probably doesn’t necessarily want to start smashing his fists into faces when there’s nothing on the line. But if he’s throwing his weight around, Orr and McLaren are going to have something to say about it.
And Neil isn’t one to back down from a challenge.

Newfoundland – a good choice for camp or a visit

- September 23rd, 2014

The Senators made a good call in picking St. John’s N.L. as the place to open their camp.
For one thing, it’s wise to get away to give the players a chance to bond. No wives, no girlfriends, no kids, no buddies, no real-life problems, no distractions. Where better to go than an Island for all that?
And Newfoundland, well, if you haven’t been there you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s true, “Newfies” are among the friendliest folks in the world. That alone puts everyone in a positive frame of mind.
The province is beautifully scenic. And being in St. John’s, it’s not like the young guys were completely isolated and were threatened by boredom in their down time.
The famous George St. is everything it’s billed to be. The line up of pubs and bars is reminiscent of the strip in Nashville – at least a smaller version of it. This is not to say the Senators were out drinking every night. But who doesn’t get a charge out of just walking up and down a street full of night time activity?
The players golfed, management and the support staff went on a day cruise and everybody enjoyed outstanding meals at the multitude of restaurants (nothing like fresh seafood).
And after attracting only a small gathering for Sunday’s intra-squad game, and a slightly larger one for Monday afternoon’s pre-season opener, Mile One Centre was packed and lively for the surprisingly fast-paced night game against the Islanders.
“Obviously the people love hockey,” noted new Senator Dave Legwand when asked his assessment of the trip. “It was fun.”
For the Senators to be competitive this season, for them to play the defence they need to play to have a shot at the playoffs, they need to adapt the one-for-all approach. There’s no doubt they became closer during four days in Newfoundland.