Klinkhammer making name for himself with Sens
After showing instant impact in Binghamton, forward jumps on Ottawa opportunity
|Sens forward Rob Klinkhammer has made an immediate impact since being called up from the Binghamton Senators (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
And Rob Klinkhammer definitely knows it's so.
"Especially playing in the States, a lot of people like my name and they gravitate toward it," said the Ottawa Senators rookie forward with a most distinctive German name. "I've seen some weird signs in the stands all the time ... It's one of the more interesting ones and I'm glad to have it."
But it's more than just that family name — the second-longest in Senators history, if you're wondering — that earned the 6-3, 214-pound forward his current opportunity in Ottawa. He's been a constant presence in front of the net since being summoned from Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League last weekend.
Klinkhammer's efforts were duly noted during Thursday night's 4-1 triumph over the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place. He drew an assist on a third-period goal by Kyle Turris — the first career National Hockey League point for the native of Lethbridge, Alta. — and was named the game's third star.
"I was pumped, I was happy to receive it," Klinkhammer said of the post-season honour in his first home game with the big club. "It was a big night for me. I was just excited and I'll take (the points) any way I can get them."
All of this is just reward for a fifth-year pro who seized upon a massive opportunity presented to him in Binghamton, after Klinkhammer was acquired in a Dec. 2 trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. He'd been buried down on the farm for the previous three seasons with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, seeing just one game of action with the Hawks, for whom he made his NHL debut on Dec. 7, 2010, against the Dallas Stars.
"Things were going rough for me there," said Klinkhammer. "I'd been there awhile and I think a change was really good for me ... I was on the fourth line (in Rockford) and I wasn't really going anywhere."
Contrast that to what happened almost from the day of his arrival in Binghamton, where B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst gave Klinkhammer an immediate chance to be a prime-time performer. The 25-year-old forward didn't disappoint, racking up 35 points in 35 games — including a dozen goals — while playing major minutes.
"When I got in there, (the B-Sens) had a lot of injuries and they really needed an older guy," said Klinkhammer. "Right away, they put me in a position to succeed. I was getting first line everything. First line PP (power play), first line PK (penalty killing) ... I played a ton of minutes, about 20-25 a night."
"He's been great," Turris said of Klinkhammer. "He's been moving really well, he moves the puck quick, he's getting first in on the forecheck and pressuring (opponents) and making them turn over the puck."
Senators head coach Paul MacLean has also been pleased by the new addition to his lineup.
"He's got real good speed and he gets around the rink real well," MacLean said following Senators practice earlier today at Scotiabank Place. "I think he does a good job in the defensive zone along the boards, he does a good job on the forecheck and he shares the puck real well. I think he makes our team faster and a little more skilled."
For his part, Klinkhammer admitted it was a real eye opener when he learned he'd be playing on a line with Alfredsson, merely the greatest player in Senators modern franchise history.
"I was shocked," said Klinkhammer, who remembers watching plenty of Alfredsson highlights on TV as a young player in Alberta. "I walked in here for my first game, I looked at the lineup and my eyes kind of popped out of my head. I was like 'holy cow.' I was expecting to play five or six minutes (a game).
"But I have so much respect for a player like Alfredsson. He's the franchise, he's the captain, he's the whole team, and I'm just honoured to be able to play with him."
Around the boards
MacLean confirmed Ben Bishop, who's 2-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .926 save percentage since joining the Senators this week, will make his third straight start Saturday, when the Buffalo Sabres make their final visit of the season to Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) ... Alfredsson, along with blueliners Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar, were given "maintenance" days off today, but MacLean expects all three to be in the lineup against Buffalo ... Fewer than 6,000 tickets are available for the Senators' final seven home games of the regular season, including just 200 for the matchup with Buffalo. Through 34 home games, Ottawa has recorded 19 sellouts — three more than the entire 2010-11 season — with an average attendance of 19,199, up five per cent over the same point a year ago. It's expected the Senators will play before capacity crowds in all of their remaining home dates, putting the team on pace for 26 sellouts, the highest number since the 2007-08 season.