Welcome back Senators

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

The risk the Senators are taking is that Heatley, 24, can rebound from what happened to him two years ago, that he can get back to being the player he was in 2002-03 when he had 41 goals and 48 assists in 77 games in his second year in the NHL.

He struggled at times in last spring's world championships (after being the MVP the year before) and had an average World Cup for Team Canada on the eve of the lockout as he worked to come back from his knee injury.

Heatley, as you would hope, thinks he can be that player again and thinks the environment here in Ottawa will help that happen.

Playing for the expansion Thrashers had its own set of challenges.

Now Heatley is embracing the all-or-nothing approach here.

"Any time you come to a team like this, it's awesome. It's totally different from Atlanta. There, they were just trying to make the playoffs. Here's it's win the Stanley Cup or ... that's it," he said. "That's the only goal. It's something that's great to be around.

"I think I can bring a lot of things here to help this team. I've had some pretty good seasons in the NHL. I think what I bring can help this team.

"I love this environment. The other environment (in Atlanta) is a tough one mentally. Guys who were here early know that. When you're starting out, it's tough. Every year there's a lot of changeover. They're both tough. This is also tough. There's a lot of heat on this team.

"But at the same time coming in, you know what you are getting into. This is serious business from day one. The stakes are a little higher. This team has been close a lot of years and that builds up.

"There's a lot heat and a lot of pressure, but everyone knows it. I love that kind of pressure. I think it brings the best out in a team and in the individual.

"This has been a team on the verge for a lot of years and that's not good enough this year."

Heatley is off to a great start here.

He has had a good connection with centre Jason Spezza and winger Brandon Bochenski.

Senators coach Bryan Murray likes Heatley's ability to shoot coming off the wing and Spezza's playmaking abilities should complement that.

"This guy could be one of the top couple of left wingers, no, one of the top couple of wingers in the game," said Murray. "He's big, strong and he scores. He's going to get nothing but stronger. In the new league, he's one of the guys who's really going to thrive."

Spezza said he sees in Heatley a lot of the same kind of hunger to score goals he has, but that's old news to him.

"I don't think much has surprised me," said Spezza. "I played two world juniors with him and I know all about him. I didn't see him play (in Europe) but I heard all that crap the media was saying about him being a step slower (after his knee injury). If he's a step slower, I want to know how fast he was before.

"We have the prospect of playing together for a long time. What's exciting is we're such a young team. If we can make this work, this could be something really good.

"We both like scoring a lot. If we've got one or two, we want three or four. He's got that drive to put the puck in the net. He won't let up if he's got one or two."

Heatley has a new hockey home now, a new team, new linemates. He has a new and exciting chance to move forward.

He looks ahead, his sights aimed high.

" I want to get better every day," he said, "to the point where I'm one of the best players in the league."


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