Cheechoo hoping Dad knows best

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

OTTAWA -- It's a humbled Jonathan Cheechoo standing before reporters now.

The confident, brash, sometimes snippy 56-goal scorer who sniped his way to a Rocket Richard Trophy with the San Jose Sharks in 2005-06 has evolved into a more willingly vocal -- albeit more soft-spoken -- member of the National Hockey League.

Steeply declining production over the four seasons has softened Cheechoo's voice.

His play had become equally quiet.

Fourth-line kind of meek.

That's where he was toiling for the Ottawa Senators before Tuesday night's contest against the Calgary Flames.And linemates Peter Regin and Jesse Winchester will never be mistaken for Joe Thornton.

Nothing a little pep talk from pop can't fix.

Cheechoo's dad Melvin was at the game in Toronto Saturday. His son still looks to him for advice when times are tough.

"My dad. He's always helped me out, from when I was a young kid," Cheechoo said before arguably his best game of the season in a 3-2 win over the Flames.

"He'd make special trips down. It probably wasn't in our family budget, but he found a way to come down and coach me through a few things."

Melvin passed on some words of wisdom before heading back home to Moose Factory, Ont., after the 5-0 shutout in Toronto.

"He just wants me to believe in myself and keep shooting," Cheechoo said.

"He used to play a little bit too -- not at a high level, but he played and he knows what it takes when it's getting a little frustrating for you.

"The more shots I put on net the more chance there is of something finding its way home."

He didn't score Tuesday night, but did everything possible to make it happen only to be rejected by Miikka Kiprusoff. A glove save in the first period left Cheechoo snapping his head back in disbelief.

An even better paddle stop at the goal-line in the second period after the Sens winger outhustled his opposition and made a valiant wraparound attempt drew laughter from Cheechoo.

He was moved to the top line for his efforts and earned an assist on Jason Spezza's go-ahead goal late in the middle frame.

Deking a defenceman, Cheechoo sent a pass to the middle that took a fortunate hop off Adam Pardy's stick and landed right on Spezza's.

Shades of the Shark finally showed in Ottawa. The Sens had hoped it would happen after acquiring the winger with Milan Michalek in the Dany Heatley trade this summer.

Hernia troubles contributed to Cheechoo's ever-decreasing numbers with the Sharks as he plummeted from goal totals of 56, to 37, to 23, to 12 a year ago, and just a handful for the Sens prior to Tuesday's game -- the 500th of his career -- against the Flames.

But he doesn't have health problems to blame this season.

"Totally healthy," said the 29-year-old winger.

"It's been a frustrating year a little bit. I haven't been able to produce the way I'm used to.

"Hopefully, it can turn around in the last few months here before the season ends."

Effort isn't the issue, and that's the biggest reason his lack of scoring touch has been so troubling. Cheechoo fired 111 shots on opposition goaltenders before Tuesday night, and eagerly added another five to that total.

Proud of his accomplishment of playing 500 games, Cheechoo says he'd love to double up and reach the 1,000 mark.

"This is the most fun game that was ever invented, for me," he said.


Photos