The battle lines are drawn on the Senators blueline as training camp shifts to another phase tomorrow.
While Senators GM Bryan Murray looked at the possibility of adding Anaheim Ducks defenceman Mathieu Schneider, there wasn't a chance the club was going to pick up the 38-year-old veteran on waivers.
The Senators could use a puck-moving defenceman before the season opens Oct. 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Stockholm, but Ottawa simply can't afford Schneider's $5.75-million US salary.
The Senators are hoping to find the answer among a group of 18 defencemen in camp and the audition for the role begins tomorrow as the New York Rangers visit Scotiabank Place for the pre-season opener.
In that group, only nine have NHL experience -- and even less have ever run a power play -- which means it's likely coach Craig Hartsburg will have to rely on these players to at least start the season.
Veteran Filip Kuba, picked up from Tampa Bay in the deal that sent Andrej Meszaros to the Bolts, will likely run the club's power play, while Alexandre Picard, Brian Lee and Brendan Bell are also going to get a shot.
HELP THE TEAM
"I've only talked to the coach briefly, but nothing detailed," said Kuba. "Obviously, you want to be on the ice in every situation and help the team."
Since Kuba, who has been paired with veteran Jason Smith through the first two days, is pencilled into one spot and it would appear Schubert's role will also be increased, the real battle will be among the young players.
"Nobody has talked to me. I'm hoping for it," said Schubert. "I played all last year on the second unit of the power play and I did an all-right job. The power play can always be better and I hope I get the opportunity again so I can use my shot from the point.
"But you're asking the wrong guy, you've got to talk to the coach. Hopefully, I get a couple of chances in the pre-season games and I can do it this year."
Acquired in the Meszaros deal along with Kuba, Picard hasn't had the chance to play that kind of role in the past, but does have potential. Bell has done the job at the AHL level and this could be a breakthrough season for Lee.
All are well aware they're battling for the same spot. They know it's not going to be easy and nobody is taking anything for granted. Lee was called up at the end of last season and impressed.
"I've worked hard and I've done pretty well. Hopefully, I can get better every day," said Lee, who had three goals and 22 assists in 55 games with the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton last season.
"You have to work on your skills: Shooting, skating and moving the puck. The biggest thing is just learning the pro game. You have to learn when you have time with the puck and when you don't."
Picard, a Gatineau native who has been paired with Schubert, said he'll take what comes his way.
"We haven't gotten into details with the coaching staff so I don't want to go too far into it. I just want to focus on our game through camp. I'll take the minutes that I can get," said Picard.