Michalek has sense of urgency

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Up close, he looks even bigger than the listed 6-foot-2, 225 lbs. Thicker, more solid.

By all accounts, he does not shy away from physical play. He drives hard to the net and battles in the corners.

If he’s not the fastest skater in the NHL, they say, he’s probably in the top 5.

And at 24, he’s bringing not only a relatively club-friendly contract but also, seemingly, a sense of urgency.

“I hope I can step up my game,” Milan Michalek said yesterday morning, in his first interview as a Senator at Scotiabank Place. “I am not a young guy any more. Hopefully, I can put up some more goals.”

It’s quite possible Michalek, who will pull in an average of $4.33 million until the end of the 2014 season, has only scratched the surface of his potential.

The Senators, in fact, are banking on it. In four NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks, he’s been pretty good with goal totals of 17, 26, 24 and 23.

He believes he’s better than that.

I think I have a pair of boxers older than he is, but if Michalek says he’s “not a young guy anymore” then that indicates he’s not going to make excuses, that he’s ready to live up to his billing as the No. 6 overall pick in 2003, which was a very good draft.

And if he scores 30-35 goals this season while actually playing both ends of the ice like the rumours suggest, Michalek could be well on his way to making Senators GM Bryan Murray come out the winner in the trading of Dany Heatley — a sniper who only brings a great one-timer and a lot of sour grapes to the table.

Starts and stops

Jeremy Yablonski could very be among the wave of cuts made by Ottawa today, but GM Bryan Murray really should think about re-calling him from Binghamton for at least six games this season — every single Senators-Maple Leafs meeting. The Toronto Goon Squad will have too many brawlers for Chris Neil to handle by himself (even though Nick Tarnasky’s aching orbital bone is proof that Neil is already in fine form) and Yablonski reminded all he’s more than capable of handling such duties with his thorough pounding of tough guy Adam Keefe in the first period .... The only rift between Heatley and any Senators players was the envy the former held toward the stars on the team and their shadows he thought he’d never escape — and from those who were simply tired of his selfishness. Stop, already, with all the ridiculous off-ice rumours about girlfriends and wives and pregnancies. For the last time, the reasons he wanted out of Ottawa were all hockey-related ... Heatley was also down on the local media who dared criticize his play. Things could change, of course, but the two players he was traded for are displaying a different attitude toward the press. The almost-always-grinning Cheechoo clearly enjoyed reminiscing yesterday morning about the Memorial Cup tournament in Ottawa 10 years ago — even though a knee injury meant he mostly had to watch his Belleville Bulls fall short — while Michalek acknowledged but shrugged off such heat in the nation’s capital. “I don’t think it’s going to be a lot of pressure,” he said. “We’ll see if everything is going to go good. If something is going to go bad, the pressure will be worse than in California.”

Between periods

There’s something you don’t see every day — Anton Volchenkov has just blocked a shot, this one by Cory Stillman. Well, you don’t see it every day in the summer. Every day the Senators are playing you do .... Kovalev must have thought he was on Michael Landsberg’s Off The Record with the quick “next question” he gave a TV reporter asking if he was going to be making his new hockey season home in Quebec or Ontario. “I’m in Ottawa now,” he bristled, “so I’m living in Ottawa.” ... New song, new clip coming to a video board near you: Mike Fisher is gonna git ya. Easy ladies, he’s still got the girlfriend .... Attendance was announced at 15,205 but the building was only half full, at most ... So much for the Senators always winning when Chris Phillips scores.

Things that make you go hmmm ...

It wasn’t a regular-size crowd and the conditions were dry, but the new fourth lane made the drive to SBP 90 minutes before game time even better than expected. I was able to drive 130 km/h between the 416 and the rink. Um, sorry officers, I meant 100, of course ... You’ve never seen Yablonski? Think Tie Domi, with muscles and about four more inches in height ... One theory is the officials were so tired of watching a bad game, there’s no way they were going to allow another five minutes of it ... The three stars, as selected by the Team 1200, were the three goal scorers: Dmitri Kulikov, Jordan Leopold and Phillips.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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