Sens forward Mark Stone will be returning to his hometown of Winnipeg to take on the Jets for the first time in his career tonight when the Senators play their fifth pre-season game tonight at MTS Centre. Stone has played in two contests thus far and figures to line up alongside Zack Smith and Mike Hoffman in Winnipeg tonight.
"I'm excited, it's only pre-season but it's nice to go play in front of friends and family. I know I'll have a lot of people there watching me," said Stone.
Stone figures to be in the centre of heated competition for an NHL roster spot at the moment. In addition to playing alongside Smith and Hoffman, he has also had time with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur through training camp, which is where he finished his 2013-14 season. His two-way play, size and playmaking ability figure to have him in the thick of the pack to break camp with the team and head to Nashville for the season opener.
"I felt like I've played pretty well. My main concern coming into camp was to keep my feet moving at all times," said Stone. "I know I have the skills to play here I just need to keep working on my feet, keep moving them and try not to do too much and keep my shifts at a length where I can continue to play as hard as I do in the first in the third."
Stone's style of play has given him the opportunity to line up with a number of different Senators centres and wingers in his time with the big club. That adaptability is a point of pride in his game.
"I like to think that guys like playing with me. I try to keep the game simple and try to let my skill take that on," said Stone. "I've played with a bunch of guys since I've been here and I haven't complained about anyone, there's a lot of guys in this locker room that are easy to play with. Whether it's Smitty or Hoff or Clarke and Turry, they're all easy to play with and play the game the way it's supposed to be played."
Senators forward Bobby Ryan is in the subject of some line experimentation this week as he has been shifted to the left side at times to play alongside Mika Zibanejad and Alex Chiasson. Many will recall that this is not Ryan's first stint on the left side during his time in the NHL as he filled in the wing alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry when Anaheim opted to combine the heavyweight trio.
"Some things look different when you're coming down the ice and you have to spend more time on your backhand, but if it's something that helps us be a little deeper then yeah, whatever works," said Ryan.
Ryan made his pre-season debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs last Wednesday and recorded two goals and an assist in a 3-2 Senators victory. He says he has yet to feel any ill effects from last season's hernia surgery to this point.
"I feel good. I've only had a couple of situations where I've felt uncomfortable with my groin but other than that everything has been great. No setbacks and I think Thursday and Friday was great. I'll knock on wood that it continues like that."
The Ottawa Senators had a pair of first happen for prospects on a single goal last Wednesday night in Toronto. When Ryan Dzingel scored a third period goal to tie the Maple Leafs at three, it marked his first goal as a Senator — in his first game no less — and also earned Darren Kramer his first ever assist in his second pre-season game.
"I think I went crazy on the celly there," said Dzingel. "It was a cool feeling. Obviously it's a big rivalry and the place was packed. It was a cool feeling and a good experience."
The goal is no small feat considering the first game jitters and competition he faced each shift.
"Walking on the ice I didn't really see the stadium yet so walking out of the tunnel it felt really big and really cool. Just trying to get my feet wet in the first period, I started to get more confidence in the second and third," said Dzingel. "I was playing against Kessel, Kadri and van Riemsdyk, got a lucky turnover and I was fortunate enough to put it away. My linemates had a hard shift and they deserved it too. I'm glad we got one."
One of those linemates was Darren Kramer who suited up for his second NHL pre-season game after making his debut during the 2013 pre-season.
"It was nice — I think they actually missed it at first so I didn't get my name over the PA, they said it was unassisted at first but then they checked it and I got the assist," said Kramer. "It was just a good feeling to get out there and play and play with Dzingel. It was a pretty surreal experience playing in that rink."
The assist is just an extension of an offensive outburst Kramer has had dating back to his appearance in the Rookie Tournament. He led the Senators in scoring at the London, Ont., tournament with three goals and an assist in three games.
"This was the year I wanted to make that step and show I could play the game as well. They know I'm willing to play the physical role," said Kramer. "I want to get back to what I did in my last year of junior when I scored over 20 goals and play more of an offensive role. The game is changing, if you want to play the game you have to play in all three zones and be trusted by your coach."
He also wrapped up the tournament wearing the 'C' for the Senators and recorded a Gordie Howe hat-trick in the process.
"That was pretty cool. I know it's just the Rookie Tournament but it's nice to be acknowledged as a leader and to wear a Senators jersey with that is pretty surreal. To go out and have the game I did with the C on the jersey is neat. I was an assist shy of the Gordie the night before so to get it felt good."
As for Dzingel, he is still in the midst of his transition to the pro brand of hockey after wrapping up his time at Ohio State. With his skating ability being one of his strongest attributes, he hasn't had trouble adjusting to the pace of the pro game. The transition has been primarily a mental one — gaining confidence with the puck on his stick and setting his internal alarm to know when he needs to get rid of it.
"I've only played one game but the difference is in the AHL guys seem to be pressuring you more in the corners. I felt like I had more time than I thought yesterday," said Dzingel. "You just have to be confident over the puck and I think I've taken strides in my strength. Just be strong over the puck and know you've got more time than you think."
Here's what Paul MacLean had to say after the Sens' Monday practice ahead of the team's pre-season trip to Winnipeg on Tuesday...
Paul MacLean spoke to the media after the Senators practice and scrimmage on Friday afternoon. Here's what he had to say...
Erik Karlsson was listed as the betting favourite to win the 2015 Norris Trophy this season by online outlets this week. Erik gave his thoughts on the news when asked about if he thought he could win the award for a second time in his young career.
"There's speculation here or there, there's 82 games to go. I want to be better than I was last year and I want our team to have success this year. That's where I'm going to improve my game," said Karlsson. "If I can help this team win games I don't really care if I win any trophies or get any awards."
On if he'll hit 80 points on his own?
"We'll see, we'll see what happens. Hopefully we are under 150 goals against."
With instant chemistry on a line featuring Curtis Lazar and Matt Puempel dating back to Rookie Camp, Buddy Robinson has opened many eyes in his second training camp with the Senators. His size, skating and ability to play all three zones for the team have earned him a place practicing with the NHL regulars through a week of camp.
"It definitely helps being my second year. You know what to expect, you come into camp and know more of the guys, you feel more comfortable," said Robinson. "You can relax on the ice and show what you can do."
"They're two really skilled guys, Curtis and Pumps, they know how to get open and score goals and that makes it easy for me to get them the puck and make me look good. We just feed off each other and are really helping each other out through this whole camp so far."
In his first full season with the Binghamton Senators, Robinson recorded 15 goals and 31 points in 69 games after finishing his final college season with eight goals and 16 points in 38 games at Lake Superior State.
Senators prospect Fredrik Claesson has stuck with the main group through training camp to this point playing primarily with Sens star Erik Karlsson. Claesson had this to say about the opportunity to play with the Norris Trophy winner and fellow countryman.
"It has been unreal, he's one of the best players in the game right now so I'm just happy to be playing with him," said Claesson. "The more games I can get with him, I don't know, it's just fun."
Claesson is coming off of a three goal, 29 point season with the Binghamton Senators where he recorded the highest plus/minus on the team with a plus-37.
Senators prospect Matt Puempel stuck with the NHL group skating at Sens practice after the AHL and NHL groups were separated on Thursday. On Wednesday night he potted his first ever NHL pre-season goal in a Senators uniform. He gave his thoughts on making the decision difficult for the coaching staff.
"I think that's what you want to do. Everybody wants to come in and make the coach's job that much harder and decisions for management that much harder," said Puempel. "At the end of the day they decide what's best for the organization and your future. I just want to work as hard as I can here and still learn every day but I think I've learned a lot over the last couple of years. I'm putting that forward here and it's nice to see it pay off a little bit."
Fans looking for their next opportunity to see Puempel in action can check out Fan Fest on Saturday, Sept. 27, which will feature a Senators scrimmage and a pair of Sens practices.
Senators head coach Paul MacLean spoke the media on Thursday after the team split its training camp groups in half. Here's what he had to say after the first round of "cuts"...