Silent but goal-den?

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:24 PM ET

Senators rookie Alexei Kaigorodov is a man of few words and even those are second-hand.

The 23-year-old's lack of English contributes to his status as the enigma of Senators training camp, having been handed the second-line centre job -- his to lose, basically -- though he has played the same number of NHL games as most of the people reading this newspaper: 0.

Kaigorodov was in that spot yesterday for the Senators first day of on-ice activity at training camp, playing between captain Daniel Alfredsson on the right side and Peter Schaefer on the left.

Maybe the only guy who did better was sophomore Patrick Eaves, who found himself on the left side of Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.

That's like showing up for a scramble golf tournament and finding out your partners are named Eldrick, Vijay and some girl named Jessica (Alba or Simpson, take your pick).

So, what did Kaigorodov think of Alfredsson, who had 103 points and tied for the team scoring lead last year?

"He's a good player, but we'll have to find an understanding on the ice," said Kaigorodov, through an interpreter.

Well, Alexei, to save you some time, the "understanding" is this:

When Alfredsson wants the puck, you give it to him.

That's what 23-year-old rookies do for the guy who is this franchise's all-time leading scorer.

Kaigorodov is attracting a huge amount of interest because he is an unknown commodity. He's a veteran of the Russian Super League and at 23, is old for an NHL rookie, which is probably why a lot of people think he's ready to step in and have an impact.

Nobody's even sure how to say his name.

"Want to take a try?" Alfredsson was asked yesterday.

"Al-ex-ei?" he deadpanned, perfectly.

SMOOTH SKATER

Kaigorodov looked like a smooth skater yesterday and can handle the puck, which is what you would expect, but yesterday it was just some skating drills and line rushes. A little more light will be shed on him today when the Senators have their first scrimmage.

"It certainly looks like he knows the game very well. I swore I wouldn't do this on the first day, so I'm really not going to say much more than he certainly wasn't out of place," said Senators coach Bryan Murray.

"He passes the puck, he sees the ice, all the things that I heard about him, it looks like he can do."

Mike Fisher, the seven-year veteran who many might have figured was in line for a shot at playing with Alfredsson, was on a line yesterday with Antoine Vermette on the left side and Chris Neil on the right.

Don't fret, Fisher fans, said Murray, Fisher is going to get a bigger role this year and might still wind up in the that No. 2 centre spot, thought that isn't Murray's first choice.

"He's going to be an awfully important player and he'll probably play a few minutes more per game," said Murray. "I think he has a chance to play a fair amount on the power play which he really didn't get (last year). I'm hoping to have two groups somewhat equal. I think Mike can certainly play a few minutes there for us.

"I don't know whether he's going to be our No. 2 centre for us or not. He's at a point in his career where he can do that. To me, that's not actually perfect for him.

"I think he's such a hard worker, such a competitive guy, we use him in other areas so much, it may not be where we need him or want him the most, but he certainly could play there. He's one of the most important players on the team because of his energy level and the speed he plays at."

Alfredsson, who's not going to be dragged into any controversy, said he's keeping an open mind about playing with the rookie. Alfredsson seems to always wind up as the guy who has to drag other players up to his level rather than getting someone close to his peer.

'VERY SKILLED'

"We'll see how long he lasts. We'll try a lot of different things in camp probably," said Alfredsson. "He's a guy we've heard is very skilled and he's a guy who could help me, so yeah, I'm excited."

One positive is Kaigorodov is a left-handed shot which Alfredsson said he thinks will benefit him in the offensive zone.

"Usually if he gets the puck behind the net and I get open, he can feed me the one-timer with his forehand." said the captain.

"For a right-handed center, that's going to be on the left side for me and I can't shoot the one-timer."

So far, so good.

Now we just have to see if Kaigorodov will go behind the net.

Hey, one thing at a time, right?


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