St. Pierre homes in on opportunity
Embrun native aiming to make mark with Senators organization
|Martin St. Pierre is off to a hot start with the Binghamton Senators, producing a team-high seven points in the AHL team's first four games (Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images).
But the Embrun native admits to having more than just a small soft spot for the National Hockey League team he grew up following in the national capital region.
"Once Ottawa came into the league in the early '90s, I started following them," said St. Pierre, who signed with the Senators on July 1, the opening day of the free-agent season. "I've always been watching them since I was a kid and it's always been my dream to play for them.
"But now I can't really look at it as a dream. It's more like a job and a path (for me) to make a point to be in the lineup and be effective. I definitely want them to look at me down here."
"Down here" is the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League, where St. Pierre is off to a highly productive start. The 5-foot-9, 187-pound centre has racked up seven points in the B-Sens' first four games, including a hat-trick in a season-opening 5-3 triumph over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Oct. 3 at the Broome County Veterans' Memorial Arena in Binghamton.
With seven points in four games, St. Pierre currently shares second spot in the AHL scoring race. It's just the kind of production the Senators expected when they signed the 26-year-old pivot, who previously produced 99- and 88-point seasons in back-to-back seasons with the Norfolk Admirals (2006-07) and Rockford IceHogs (2007-08) – both affiliates of the Chicago Blackhawks.
"He's one of the best centre-men, if not the best players, in the American Hockey League," said Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray, who oversees the organization's top prospects in Binghamton. "He's got great hands and great poise and vision with the puck. He can shoot at the wall, so he's not just a one-dimensional playmaker. He can finish.
"I expect him to be better than a point-a-game guy and our first-line centre and (to play on) our first power-play unit. He's just a real good offensive guy. If we ran into some trouble up here (in Ottawa), he can come here and maybe help us out on the power play."
Getting a shot in Ottawa was the thought St. Pierre had in mind when he decided to sign with the Senators. He spent three years with the Blackhawks organization before hooking up with the Boston Bruins in 2008-09. While he saw 14 games worth of duty with the big club, St. Pierre spent the bulk of the campaign toiling for the AHL's Providence Bruins.
"I'd been with the Blackhawks for three years and, at that time, they hadn't made the playoffs for the (previous) seven or eight years," said St. Pierre. "I had back-to-back years of 99 and 88 points and couldn't get a legitimate shot as far as trying to prove myself in the NHL. Then last year in Boston, they were top contenders for the Stanley Cup and I was kind of a filler when (Patrice) Bergeron got hurt.
With the Senators roster already overflowing with NHL-calibre forwards, Murray acknowledged it might take "a run of injuries" for St. Pierre to get the call to come to Ottawa.
"(St. Pierre) has played some games for Boston and he's played some games in the league," he said. "I think he can come up here and, given the right role, be somewhat productive."
Whenever that call might come, St. Pierre promises he'll be ready to fill whatever spot the Senators have available for him.
"Hopefully, at some point, when there's some injuries or they need an energy (boost) kind of thing, I can definitely get the call to play in my hometown," he said. "My goal is to try to become a full-time NHLer. I've got to fit in somewhere to get the call, but (before then) I've got to do what I can here in Binghamton."
As things now stand, St. Pierre is guaranteed at least one chance to play a regular-season game in his hometown this season. The B-Sens are slated to face off against the Hamilton Bulldogs, the top affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, at Scotiabank Place (3 p.m.) on Nov. 8.
The B-Sens stand 2-1-1 and in second spot in the East Division heading into home games Friday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Saturday against the Hershey Bears ... Jeremy Yablonski racked up 26 penalty minutes in Friday's 6-2 victory over the Syracuse Crunch and now ranks fourth on the B-Sens' all-time list (469) ... In the same game, blueliner Craig Schira and right-wing Keegan Dansereau each scored their first professional goal, while Tim Spencer's marker was his first in the AHL ... Keep up on the latest B-Sens news during the "Live From Binghamton" segment on Wednesday mornings after 11 a.m. on The Team 1200.