A Little Bit Of Idol Chatter
David Rundblad beams at the prospect of facing off against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night. And not just because it would mark his official National Hockey League debut in an Ottawa Senators uniform.
Nope, if you know anything about Rundblad's background and the makeup of the Red Wings roster, you know why this one would be extra special for the 20-year-old blueliner from Lycksele, Sweden.
"It's going to be amazing, especially because it's against Detroit," Rundblad said with an eye toward Friday's season-opener at Joe Louis Arena in the Motor City. "They have many, many great Swedes ... (Nick) Lidstrom and everybody. If I'm going to play, it's going to be a great feeling."
'Everybody' in this case would also include the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, a pair of prolific forwards who are revered by all supporters of the Tre Kronor. But given the position Rundblad plays, it's easy to see why he'd have a particular affinity for a certain seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's best defenceman. Let's just say it would be one heck of a 21st birthday (yes, Rundblad turns the calendar on Friday).
"It's going to be huge," Rundblad said of the prospect of sharing the same ice surface as the legendary Lidstrom, who's still going strong at age 41 — and made his Red Wings debut two years after the young Senator was born. "He was an idol when I was young ... he still is an idol for me. It's almost like a dream come true."
Now it's just a question of whether Rundblad gets the nod to play on Friday. Even with veteran Matt Carkner shelved by knee surgery, the Senators still have seven blueliners in camp. So somebody has to sit against the Red Wings and it won't be rookie Jared Cowen, who's been arguably Ottawa's best defenceman throughout training camp. Rundblad's many gifts in the offensive end have earned raves from Senators management, but it's his play in his own end that has given head coach Paul MacLean cause for concern. However, the Ottawa bench boss spoke highly of his final pre-season audition in Boston last Thursday.
"He was more involved physically and I thought it was his best game through training camp," said MacLean. "He really started to make plays with the puck when he got involved physicallyt in the game. That was a good sign. He played well defensively and he did a lot of good things with the puck to elude checks and to make exit passes for us in the third period. When we started to play real well, he was part of moving the puck out of our end and making good decisions."
Or, as GM Bryan Murray, put it: "David's got the big upside offensively. Now he just has to bring it every night."
And yes, Friday night would be just as good a place as any to start. And that's not just, ahem, idol chatter.