Opportunity awaiting young Senators duo
With Spezza sidelined, Ottawa turning to Regin, Smith to help fill offensive void
|Zack Smith has been recalled from the AHL's Binghamton Senators to help fill the void caused by the shoulder injury suffered by Ottawa's No. 1 centre, Jason Spezza (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Jason Spezza sidelined for an indefinite period with a right shoulder injury, the Senators recalled centre Zack Smith from the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators to help fill the void. In addition, Peter Regin is being pushed up the ranks to centre Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek on one of Ottawa's top lines.
Somewhere in that mix, head coach Cory Clouston believes, the Senators must find at least some of the necessary offence to help offset the loss of Spezza, who could be out for up to six weeks. But, Clouston cautioned, "it's not going to be one or two guys" picking up all of the slack.
"There are going to be three or four guys we lean on more and they have to step it up," he said following Senators practice earlier today. "It's an opportunity for a guy we're talking about right now, Peter Regin. Him getting an opportunity (now) is, I think, a really good thing for our team. Zack's getting an opportunity to get called up.
"So we've got two or three players who are going to be playing different roles."
Spezza also shouldered a significant role on the Senators' specialty units. Clouston plans to give forward Nick Foligno more power-play duty in his absence, while Smith, Jesse Winchester and Ryan Shannon could also see extended time as penalty killers.
While Clouston acknowledged the Senators are "a much better team" with Spezza in the lineup, the team has learned to prosper without him. When Ottawa's top pivotman missed four games earlier this season with a groin injury, his teammates went 3-1-0 with essentially the same roster Clouston will send onto the ice against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
Their chances of doing it are surely better if the Senators can get significant contributions from Regin — who has one goal and 10 assists in 35 games this season — and Smith, who starts into his third stint with the big club this season.
"I don't think they expect me to put up Spezza's numbers," said Regin, arguably the Senators' best player during the first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins last April. "I'm just trying to be the player that I can be and play up to my potential. I haven't done that so far, so that's my goal.
"I'm not looking at any numbers (Spezza) could have scored and (thinking) I have to do that. I'll just try to play as well as I can and finally play the game that I know I can."
Added Clouston: "We need him to just do what we expected from him from Day 1 in camp and that's move his feet, be competitive on the puck, distribute the puck properly and just shoot it. He's got a good shot and to me, a lot of times, he's been a little to anxious to distribute the puck."
Smith, meanwhile, is enthused about getting a chance to contribute on the big stage again. A victim of the salary cap numbers game, the gritty forward has produced seven goals and 12 points in 22 games with the B-Sens this season. He also has a pair of markers in an Ottawa jersey.
"I'm excited to be back up (in Ottawa)," said the native of Maple Creek, Sask. "It seems like it's been a little while. It's a good chance for me to prove myself again and hopefully, I can."
Around the boards
Clouston has pretty much ruled out the return of goaltender Pascal Leclaire (lower body) for the rest of this week, saying "we've got a five-day break after the Toronto game (on Saturday), so it looks like we'll focus more on that. But we hope to get him back on the ice in the next day or two." That means Binghamton callup Mike Brodeur will back up Brian Elliott tomorrow night against Carolina, and likely Friday in Columbus (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) against the Blue Jackets, the team that dealt Leclaire to the Senators in March 2009 ... Fewer than 350 tickets remain for the matchup with the Hurricanes, while 750 are left for the New Year's Day visit by the Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).