Saprykin relishes chance to shine in Canada

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

Oleg Saprykin has yet to fulfil the potential of an 11th overall draft pick who was selected a full 15 slots ahead of Martin Havlat in 1999, and at this point it's unlikely he ever will.

But for one shining moment in the spring of 2005, he was on top of the hockey world.

Saprykin pulled the Stanley Cup closer to Canada than it's been since 1989 when he converted a rebound of a Jarome Iginla shot with just over five minutes left in the first overtime period to give the Calgary Flames a 3-2 series lead in the best-of-seven final.

He only had three goals and three assists in that 26-game playoff run, but the Senators would be quite content with him to score one as large four months from now.

"When he's on, he's a really good player," Carolina defenceman Mike Commodore, a teammate of Saprykin's on that Flames team, said yesterday morning. "I guess it's up to him ... but he could definitely be an impact player (for Ottawa)."

In his Senators debut, Saprykin made the switch from left to right wing, but he did not line up alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley in a spot that speculation had reserved for Gary Roberts. Instead, Daniel Alfredsson rejoined his former linemates, as Saprykin skated on the fourth unit with Dean McAmmond and Christoph Schubert.

That allowed coach Bryan Murray to also reunite the Peter Schaefer-Mike Fisher-Chris Neil line, and keep intact the Antoine Vermette-Chris Kelly-Mike Comrie combination.

"(Saprykin) gives us an NHL-type player to fit in," Murray said. "He could give us an opportunity to replace a player that might need replacing, and a little more depth than we had. I think (Saprykin's new teammates) will see this guy is a real trier, and I think they'll appreciate that."

Saprykin, whose father was a backup goalie to the great Vladislav Tretiak on the Red Army team in the 1970s, has a new teammate to speak Russian with in Anton Volchenkov.

Saprykin, who arrived in Ottawa on Tuesday night, was immediately comfortable in his new home dressing room yesterday morning.

"It's a great feeling, a warm atmosphere," said Saprykin, denying that, as the Senators big deadline acquisition, there is extra weight on his shoulders to shine. "You always put pressure on yourself to do well, to help the team make its goals. There's pressure for everybody. When you have pressure, you play better."

And after playing in front of "10,000 or 11,000" fans in Phoenix, he is excited to be back on a stage drawing the focus of many more pairs of eyes.

"It's a great to be back in Canada," he said. "It's a great feeling, to go on the ice with 19,000-20,000 fans supporting you. It's great."


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