Senators swing into new season
Training camp signals renewal of quest for playoff success
|Brian Elliott will be part of a new goaltending tandem with Pascal Leclaire when the Senators open the 2009-10 season (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images).
Then the serious business of building the 2009-10 Ottawa Senators will begin in earnest.
More than five months after they last touched a puck for real, another training camp is at hand for a team that fully intends to show its absence from the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring was merely a one-year blip on the radar screen.
And they've got the momentum of a 19-11-4 finish in 2008-09 under head coach Cory Clouston to build upon, something one and all believe can continue into a new season.
"I’ve talked to a lot of guys coming back and we all seem in good spirits," said forward Nick Foligno, one of a number of Senators players who thrived under Clouston's up-tempo system. "Everyone is rarin’ to go. Everyone really wants to come back here and do well.
"We really saw how well we did and how much fun we had toward the end (of last season) and how much excitement it stirred up in the city. You get feeling good. Winning makes you feel good and I think the guys want that feeling back, and we’re going to work twice as hard to make sure we obtain that."
At least two major personnel changes will greet this team when it assembles later this week – first for the annual Bell/Ottawa Senators Charity Golf Classic on Friday at Kanata Golf & Country Club, then medicals and fitness testing on Saturday at Scotiabank Place.
Start with a new goaltending tandem to open the season: new No. 1 guy Pascal Leclaire, obtained from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline in March, and Brian Elliott, who started 2008-09 with the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators but played his way into the regular rotation with the big club by mid-season.
On defence, a lot of the excitement surrounds Erik Karlsson, the Senators' top pick (15th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray has indicated the flashy Swede will be given "every chance" to make the Senators roster. With two power-play points in the Sens' 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in their rookie tournament opener in Kitchener, Ont., on Monday, Karlsson showed the kind of punch he can add to the lineup.
Murray and Co. figure to have less time to make such decisions this year, with the season and training camp compressed because of the two-week Olympic break in February. Three days after camp opens, the Senators take on the Florida Panthers in Halifax, the first of four pre-season games they'll play next week. They go back-to-back with the Panthers on Tuesday and Wednesday (7 p.m., Scotiabank Place), then do the same with the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 18 at the Bell Centre and Sept. 19 at Scotiabank Place.
Around the boards
Rookie tournament action continues today in Kitchener, with the Senators taking on the Boston Bruins prospects at 2 p.m. They'll wrap it up Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., Rogers 22) ... Four of the Sens' six pre-season games will be televised, including all three home contests. The Florida and Montreal visits are on Rogers 22, while TSN2 carries the matchup with the Bruins on Sept. 25. In addition, RDS is airing the Sens-Habs game in Montreal.