Blueliners plan on staying

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

The warm-up act is just about over for Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch.

The big stage awaits Friday.

The Senators improved to 1-1 at the rookie tournament Sunday with a 7-3 comeback victory over the Blackhawks, but this time next week the result won't mean anything for the team's top blue-line prospects.

Cowen (selected No. 9 overall in 2009) and Wiercioch (No. 42 in 2008) will have main camp and eight exhibition games to show they've got what it takes to be NHL defencemen.

"My goal is to make the Senators," said Cowen. "Going back to junior would be a disappointment."

The Senators aren't expecting either Wiercioch, who turned 21 Sunday, or Cowen to win spots during the rookie tourney that wraps up Tuesday night against the Maple Leafs.

Senators assistant GM Tim Murray said neither player has to dominate at this tournament. The Senators are more concerned about how they perform in main camp.

"The rookie tournament is good, but for high picks like Cowen and Wiercioch, you want to see how they perform against and with better players in main camp," said Murray.

"The play isn't going to be as scrambled. It's more structured and that's when they're going to show if they're ready. This is just a tuneup. What you're going to see is that those guys are going to be much better with the older guys."

Wiercioch and Cowen have a chance of push for spots with the Senators, but it won't be easy with seven NHL defencemen under contract.

Cowen will have to be returned to Spokane in the WHL if he doesn't make the team. Wiercioch, signed after a solid career at Denver University, will be assigned to AHL Binghamton to hone his skills.

"We expect them to show that they're players," said Murray. "They may not show that they're players today, but right now they're good prospects and down the road they're going to be good players.

"If that's coming out of this camp or next year's camp or for Wiercioch halfway through the year, I don't know. They just have to continue to show they're elite players and they have to continue to improve. They've both come in stronger. They both had a lot to learn and they've just got to continue to do that."

Sunday against Chicago, it was the forwards who led the attack. Down 3-1 in the third period -- after Jim O'Brien opened the scoring for Ottawa in the first -- the club scored six unanswered goals.

David Dziurzynski, Mike Hoffman, Eric Gryba and Adam Wallace put the Senators ahead. Wiercioch scored into an empty net and Kaspars Daugavins completed the wild third period for Ottawa.

"I wouldn't say we played great, but we did a lot of things very well," said Senators coach Kurt Kleinendorst. "This is a really young group and it's early, but we've put a few things in place and they've been like sponges.

"Some of the goals were directly responsible from a really good effort. Guys were able to do what we challenged them to do."

Goalie Brandon Foote made 31 saves for the win.


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