Hamel sticks with Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

At 10:09 a.m. yesterday, winger Denis Hamel strolled out of the Senators dressing room wearing a yellow practice jersey and headed to the Bell Sensplex.

Hamel was followed out to the Scotiabank Place parking lot four minutes later by Russian prospect Alexei Kaigorodov as the remaining mysteries were solved on the club's final cut down day.

While there were six disappointed players who were sent to the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton, Hamel might have been the happiest man in Ottawa.

"I phoned my parents," said Hamel. "I thought they should hear it from me."

Shortly before the club's 10:30 a.m. skate, the 29-year-old winger made the call to his parents Gilbert and Lina Hamel in Lachute, Que., to let them know there would be a couple of tickets waiting for them for Thursday night's home opener against the Maple Leafs.

(Here's hoping the rest of the clan doesn't want tickets for Hamel's sake, as 12 of Lina's 14 siblings make their home in Gatineau.)

"I came here with a goal to make this team," said Hamel. "I worked hard this summer. I worked out a lot more and I came in (to training camp in) the best shape I could possibly be since I wanted to be a part of it."

While there are no guarantees Hamel will be here for the long run, the important thing is he will be in the lineup against the Maple Leafs tomorrow night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

"He's a guy who deserves the chance to show that he can play in this league," said Senators coach Bryan Murray.

While defencemen Michal Barinka, Jamie Allison, Andy Hedlund and Tomas Malec were sent to Binghamton, along with forwards Serge Payer and Josh Hennessy, Kaigorodov was spared a trip to the minors.

BELIEVE IN RUSSIAN

That's because the Senators feel that if the 23-year-old Russian is given more time to adjust to the North American style, he's going to show everybody he's capable of playing at this level.

"I'm not convinced that he can't play in the NHL," said Senators GM John Muckler, who was asked several times why the club kept Kaigorodov. "He's going to need some adjustment, period. There's no question about that. He's handled it pretty well.

"I could just visualize myself going over to Russia to play and not being able to speak the language. You have to be patient with these players. We look at him as a highly skilled player and usually when you've got the talent that he has, you usually find it playing in the NHL."

For the time being, the Senators don't have to make that decision. The injury to blueliner Joe Corvo (broken foot), which will keep him out at least another two weeks, means the Senators have 21 healthy bodies in camp. Only one player will be a healthy scratch every night and for the next little while that's going to be Kaigorodov.

COULD BOLT IF DEMOTED

The Senators don't want to be hasty in making a decision and that's why they're trying this route first. There are concerns if Kaigorodov is sent to the AHL, he might bolt back to Russia.

"When you make a commitment to a player, whether it be Russia or Europe in general, and you determine he is worth a contract, then he has certainly been evaluated by the staff over a whole year or more," said Murray. "The feeling was he deserved to be signed and brought here. Without a doubt, it's been a different experience for him. I thought (Saturday) in Montreal, he played fine. He made good passes, he was in good position and he was a very responsible guy. After getting a chance to see him against NHL players in the regular season, we have a chance to determine then if he deserves (a spot)."


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