Player Spotlight: Chris Neil
(Editor's note: As the 2012-13 season draws closer, ottawasenators.com will take a daily snapshot look at some of the returning players from last year, with both a look back and a look ahead).
2011-12 stats: 72 GP, 13 G, 15 A, 28 PTS, 178 PIM, -10 rating
Last season: Though he's the Senators' all-time leader in penalty minutes (1,861), Neil brings much more to the table than that for the only NHL team he's ever known. He produced 13 goals and 28 points in 2012-13, with both numbers rating as the second-highest totals of his career. Neil continues to be one of the NHL's most proficient — and feared — hitters, producing a season high of 10 in a Dec. 20 home-ice win over the Buffalo Sabres and averaging nearly four hits per game. With the Senators going to a much younger lineup last season, Neil's leadership skills were also greatly valued and he is considered to be a key member of the team's veteran core.
The highlight: Though he isn't necessarily known for his offensive production, Neil reminded the Rangers in a big way that he possesses the kind of ability during their opening round playoff series. With the teams all square at 2-2 in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden, Neil pounced on a loose puck at the 1:17 mark of overtime and backhanded it past Blueshirts netminder Henrik Lundqvist to give the Senators a series-tying victory.
Looking forward: Expect more of the same from Neil in 2012-13. Hard work and physical play have always been his main calling cards during a 10-year career in Ottawa and all of that should continue to provide an example to some of the team's younger players. One the Senators' key leaders, Neil inked a three-year contract extension in July that will keep him in Ottawa through the 2015-16 season. It should give him the opportunity to become only the third player to suit up for 1,000 games in a Senators jersey, following captain Daniel Alfredsson and defenceman Chris Phillips.
Quote: "To be a part of an organization and to be a part of it for your whole career ... there's something to be said about that. There's loyalty from the player and the team. Ottawa has been unbelievable to me. They gave me an opportunity to play (in the NHL) and I try to go out and play as hard as a I can, game in and game out, and try to do my best to help the team win. That's what they appreciate about me and I look forward to doing more of the same."