Senators falling into lines

Peter Regin, taking a break at Senators practice yesterday at Scotiabank Place, has worked his way...

Peter Regin, taking a break at Senators practice yesterday at Scotiabank Place, has worked his way onto the second line. (Sun Media/Tony Caldwell)

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Pressing hard on a pencil, Senators coach Cory Clouston has arrived at a game plan for tomorrow's final pre-season tune-up that, if all goes as expected, should carry over to the start of the season.

His scribblings reveal a veteran fourth line that, on the whole, earns $1 million more than his third line and a potpourri second unit consisting of a Canadian, a Dane and a Russian who weren’t even teammates when Ottawa’s dreadful 2008-09 campaign came to an end April 11 in Toronto.

The biggest surprise of camp, and making Clouston’s configurations possible, is the play of rookie Peter Regin. Unless he takes a sudden bellyflop, it appears the 23-year-old native of Herning, Denmark, will become the next candidate attempting to end the Senators’ long search for a second-line centre — starting between new left winger Mike Fisher and wily old Alex Kovalev — when they open up in New York against the Rangers a week from Saturday.

“I’m still trying to make this team,” Regin said yesterday when asked about his confidence level. “I’m playing with great players ... I don’t know if that makes it easier, it’s more pressure, too ... but definitely it’s nice to get the chance to play with good players.”

Meanwhile, all over North America hockey poolies are scrambling to learn about Regin, whose next NHL game will be his 12th.

That leaves him just 1,140 behind Kovalev and 530 behind Fisher.

“He spent a year in the American League, he’s played 11 games up, and he’s played a couple of years professional in the elite league in Sweden,” Clouston said. “He’s not as inexperienced as some other guys may be who are kind of a flash in the pan, as far as a good camp and then they disappear. Does that mean he’s going to have some ups and downs? Absolutely. He’s not going to be at a high level the whole time. But we think he’s very ready, or very close to being ready to be a regular.”

Regin had some chemistry with Fisher in their brief stint together last season, and it has obviously carried over. All Regin knows about Kovalev is what he has seen on the tube.

“I’ve been a big fan of him the past 15 years,” he said. “It’s exciting to be on the ice with him.

“Last year when I was down in Binghamton, we wanted to watch Ottawa, but when they were not on TV, we wanted to watch Montreal. He’s one of the guys you want to watch.”

Fisher has four goals in the last two pre-season games, mostly playing alongside Regin. The thinking is moving Fisher from centre to the side could help him put up bigger offensive numbers.

“(A centre’s) down low coverage to me is one of the most tiring parts of the game, so it’s allowed me to save energy for offence,” Fisher said. “To skate a little bit more, up and down, and use my speed, and shoot the puck. Pete’s done a good job of distributing the puck and I’ve been able to capitalize on that. I’m happy playing the wing. It’s worked so far.”

For his first line, Clouston has Milan Michalek in Dany Heatley’s old spot, alongside Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson. The third line features speedy Ryan Shannon between Nick Foligno and Jonathan Cheechoo. Jarrko Ruutu, Chris Kelly and Chris Neil currently comprise the fourth line. Underlining the team’s new-found depth is the fact a fifth line has veterans Shean Donovan and Christoph Schubert on either side of Zack Smith.

Donovan noted that he was also on the fifth line when the Senators started last season in Stockholm against the Penguins. He went on to play 65 games and score five goals, matching the total he compiled in 2007-08, his first year as a Senator, when he played all 82 games.

“Obviously, I’m not happy being there,” he said of being a spare part. “But all you can do is work hard and skate hard. Things can change pretty quick.”


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