The 67’s two best defencemen will be making their season debut in tonight’s home opener at the Civic Centre against the Niagara IceDogs.
And Tyler Cuma and Julien Demers will be carrying some added responsibilities.
Assistant captains to Logan Couture last season, Cuma and Demers were yesterday named the 2009-10 edition’s co-captains by coach Chris Byrne.
For the first half of the season, Cuma will wear the captain’s ‘C’ at home and Demers will wear it on the road, then they’ll switch at the halfway point.
The assistant captains will be Thomas Nesbitt and Corey Cowick, who is expected to be lost to the team until at least January because of a shoulder injury.
Byrne said he talked to GM Brian Kilrea and polled others in the organization before making the decision to have Cuma and Demers share the ‘C.’
“We all felt we had two strong leaders in Julien and Tyler, so why make a choice?” said Byrne. “As far as the alternates go, Thomas is a four-year player who works hard and excels on the ice, helps the younger players and is great in the room. Similar story with Corey. He’s a force to reckon with on the ice, great in the room and a real ambassador for the team on school visits and other appearances.”
While Nesbitt scored twice in Saturday’s 3-1 win in Sudbury, Demers watched from the sidelines with a knee injury while Ottawa went 1-0-1 (including a loss to the Soo Greyhounds) on its season-opening road trip.
Demers will play tonight, as will Cuma, who was returned to the team by the Minnesota Wild earlier this week.
Cuma, the Wild’s first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2008 draft, played more than 20 minutes in each of Minnesota’s pre-season games against Chicago and Columbus. He wasn’t at all surprised about being returned to the 67’s.
“I had a pretty good understanding that I was going to get sent back to Ottawa,” said Cuma, who suffered a season-ending knee injury at last December’s junior national team camp. “The lack of the season I had last year, and they have a lot of defence within their system that are ready. They have about seven or eight guys that are up there ahead of me. I knew management just kind of wanted me there for the little bit of experience I got and then they were going to send me back to develop.
“It’s a win-win. I would have either made that team, but now I have another shot at the world juniors and get to play my last year here with Ottawa. Hopefully, things go well this year for me ... I have a good season and try again next fall for Minnesota.”
Cuma is excited to get to the unfinished business he has with the 67’s.
“We pretty much have the majority of the core players we had last year,” he said. “We made a helluva season out of it last year before unfortunately falling out of it in the first round (of the playoffs). I think this year, with the same guys we have, and with the nucleus coming in, I think we’ll be a really good team, definitely a contender in the league.”
With Chris Perugini getting banged up in the Soo, the 67’s will go with first-year Czech Petr Mrazek in goal tonight.