Big NHL chance suits Eaves well

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The advice Patrick Eaves got from his coach had nothing to do with going to the net, or going to the corners or going back to his own end harder.

No, it was more about going to a tailor.

"I told him to get a second suit," Bryan Murray said. "He can afford one now."

Eaves complied.

"I went out and bought one yesterday," he said.

Doubled your collection of them, did you?

"Yeah, well, no," he said. "Now I have one and a half. The other one wasn't very good."

Eaves' wardrobe is sure to improve, as he is now getting a good chance to earn a regular NHL cheque -- perhaps even end his minor-league career at 18 games -- as the replacement for the injured Brandon Bochenski, who was filling in for the injured Martin Havlat.

Both fallen Senators have damaged right shoulders, but whereas Havlat needed regular-season ending surgery, Bochenski's "separation" is expected to keep him out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks, Murray said yesterday.

"I still have some pain ... I'll be able to keep Marty company," Bochenski, who had six goals and seven assists in 18 games, said as he left the Corel Centre yesterday.

REGULAR CALLUP

Eaves, the Senators' first-round pick (29th overall) in the 2003 draft, was a late training camp cut who has been on a yo-yo between Ottawa and Binghamton ever since. The most common adjectives used to describe him since October have not been fast or smart or hard working but "emergency injury recall," as six times the Senators have had to dial his upper state New York number.

But that's all changing.

At yesterday's practice, Eaves skated on the right wing of a line with Bryan Smolinski and Vaclav Varada, and that's where he should be when the Senators visit the Habs tonight. The 21-year-old Faribault, Minn. native seems to have the necessary skills to play on a scoring line. He picked up 107 points in an 84-game career at Boston College. He had five goals and eight assists in 18 games with Binghamton. He has three goals and a helper in eight games in the NHL.

But Murray also likes his dedication to defence.

"He's a real intelligent player," said the coach. "I think he's going to be a real fine complimentary player in the NHL because he can make the pass, he's a very responsible guy, he's going to really support the defensive side of the puck.

"What I liked about him, when I was able to play him with (Daniel) Alfredsson and Smolinski earlier in the year, is that he's very creative.

"He supports, but he can make the good play on a regular basis. There's a learning curve here, too, but he's made nice strides since training camp."

Eaves' father Mike, who now coaches at the University of Wisconsin, spent eight years in the NHL, playing 324 games with Minnesota and Calgary.

A stepping stone before his own college career with the Badgers was the CJHL's Nepean Raiders, and for one all-star game against the OHL's Sudbury Wolves, Mike Eaves was coached by none other than Bryan Murray, who was the bench boss in Pembroke at the time.

'REAL OLD GUY'

"I'm a real old guy," Murray said with a laugh.

Eaves, whose grandparents lived in Ottawa for a short time, is using the one-game-at-a-time approach in his attempt to make the nation's capital his home.

"It's kinda hard, you see your friend get hurt, but I just have to take this opportunity, play well and help this team out," he said. "It's an opportunity that's opened up, I have to take advantage of it, hopefully, and help this team keep going in the right direction.

"It's fun playing at this pace. Everything happens real quick, so you have to be mentally on top of things to play. But that's the stuff I love. That's why I play this game."

Sounds like a future best-dressed candidate, doesn't he?


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