Cullen finds his place with Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Matt Cullen is using the Olympic break to make himself at home with the Senators.

Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes for defenceman Alex Picard and a second-round pick two games before the break, the Senators’ newcomer is benefiting from the club’s practice time to get used to his surroundings.

While coach Cory Clouston hasn’t been able to get a lot accomplished with five of his top players still at the Olympics, he has put Mike Fisher in the middle with RW Alex Kovalev and Cullen — moved from centre to the left side — in workouts this week at the Bell Sensplex.

“It’s a possibility for a line. The last game (before the break) they did a real good job for us and scored the winning goal (against the Isles),” said Clouston. “They seemed to have a little bit of chemistry. Whether that stays as a line or not, we’ll wait and see when the four or five guys filter back (Monday).

“We’ve got six or seven natural centremen, so somebody is going to have to play the wing. This is about getting guys in roles where we feel they can help the team. If (Cullen) is on the left, that’s fine and then if we need him to take certain draws, then he’s there as well. He looks like a versatile player. That’s his history, that he can play different positions. We’re going to need him to do that.”

Cullen isn’t concerned with where he plays; he’s happy to have a chance with a contender. Before the trade, he thought he would have to wait until the deadline — this Wednesday — to be moved. He and winger Ray Whitney spoke regularly about their situations with the Hurricanes, mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

So Cullen was pleased to get the call Feb. 13 that he was traded to a club on a roll — and now third in the East. He didn’t want to go to a club that was battling to just make the playoffs.

“I was expecting a deal and I had heard Ottawa. My wife (Bridget) was reading (the Sun) and had the rumours for me,” Cullen said with a smile. “(A trade) was definitely something I expected, just because of the situation we were in and the fact Carolina was going to be trading some guys. My name and Ray Whitney’s were all over the place.”

The timing of the deal worked out well. Bridget Cullen is pregnant and she has moved back to the family’s home in Minnesota for the balance of the season with the couple’s two boys.

Cullen used the eight-day break to accompany his family from Raleigh to Moorhead — and to ease the stress.

“I wasn’t so sure about (the timing of the deal) at first. Now that it has happened, I’m 100% happy it happened when it did. It’s a big adjustment. There’s a lot that goes into this with your family, settling down in an area and just getting comfortable with a team,” said Cullen.

Cullen also recalled how his ’Canes won the Stanley Cup in 2006 after bringing in Doug Weight and Mark Recchi for the stretch.

“There’s a pretty good energy in the (Senators) room and obviously a lot of ability and talent,” said Cullen. “When you come to a team that’s been as hot as this team, it’s great. It feels a little bit like 2006, when I was in Carolina when we were rolling and had a lot of good players. I’m excited.”


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