Smith celebrates milestone

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

DENVER -- Jason Smith did something last night he can officially say he's done a thousand times: Suit up for an NHL game.

The Senators defenceman was trying to play down the accomplishment before his 1,000th career game against the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center, but the 35-year-old veteran will be able to look back on this at the end of his career and smile.

Smith is never about himself. He is always about what's best for the team and he didn't want to take any of the spotlight away from the improvement the club has shown under coach Cory Clouston as the Senators closed out a five-game road trip against the Avs.

"I just enjoy playing," said Smith. "I honestly don't even know what it means to get to 1,000 games. I haven't really thought about it that much. Over time, it shows that you're pretty durable, you've enjoyed playing the game and that you've been able to compete at a high level for a while.

"I'm not really going to celebrate or think about it much. It's something you think about when your career is over. The thing I'll remember as a player forever is the good times you had with guys and the family, friends and people you've been acquainted with. This seems like something that happens along the way."

IN 15TH SEASON

The road has been long for Smith, who is in his 15th NHL season and first with the Senators. He played his first career game with the Devils on Oct. 8, 1993 against the Capitals.

It was with the Devils that Smith learned about leadership skills and accountability. New Jersey has long been held in high regard as an organization that is special because the players buy into the program that has kept the team atop the NHL standings for more than 15 seasons.

"Guys like Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko were up there when I got there," said Smith. "I just remember watching them, the way they went about life in the dressing room and the life of being a player. There's a lot of positive things I picked up along the way.

"I've just tried to mould that into my game. It doesn't seem like long ago when you're 19 years old and coming in. Now, I guess I'm one of those old guys if you talk to the young guys. I feel great. Some days you wake up and you have a few more aches and pains than you have when you're younger, but I definitely enjoy coming to the rink and competing."

There have been plenty of highlights along the way. Smith, who has also had stops in Toronto, Edmonton and Philadelphia in his career, said his greatest memory is going to the Stanley Cup final with the Oilers in 2006 against the Hurricanes.

Edmonton lost in the seventh game of the series, but nobody expected the Cinderella Oilers to be there in the first place.

"Being part of the Oilers when we went on the run was pretty exciting," said Smith, a Calgary native. "It was pretty amazing to see the way the city was behind the team and just to see the excitement in the younger guys on the team as well as the older guys. It was a pretty special time. It would have been nice to win one more game, that's for sure."

OFF THE GLASS

Senators D Brendan Bell was a healthy scratch against the Avs. Clouston wasn't pleased with Bell's performance in a 2-0 victory over the Predators on Tuesday and gave Bell a seat for the third period. "He wasn't as intense as he needed to be with his decision making. That has to be his strength. He has to move his feet to make good decisions with the puck. If he doesn't, then he struggles in those areas," said Clouston. D Alexandre Picard, who hadn't suited up since Feb. 1 against the Capitals, returned to the lineup ... The Avs still expect C Joe Sakic to return from his back/fingers injury next month. "He's just beginning his rehab on his back and we're still optimistic and hopeful that he'll be able to return sometime this year," said Avs coach Tony Granato. "He's been around a lot and he's upbeat and still gung-ho about giving it a run to get back. He's dedicated to his conditioning and the work ethic to get back into it. If there's one guy that you know will do everything to get back, it's Joe."


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