Sens ready to battle for jobs

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:10 PM ET

No coaches, no mandate, no matter ... to Senators players, training camp has already begun.

While the official reporting date is Sept. 17, all but four of those expected to be on the 2010-11 edition of the squad were among the 27 zipping around the Bell Sensplex ice Monday for a 90-minute session that included line rushes and a scrimmage.

Only missing were Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher, who did attend similar get-togethers last week, plus Milan Michalek and Alex Kovalev (who would have surely been among the first picked had there been a pool on which would be the last veteran to report).

Jason Spezza was there, although you will see no TV or newspaper interviews as evidence. Of those asked for a moment as they left the rink, Spezza was the only one to decline.

“Lots of time Thursday,” the team’s No. 1 centre said as he deked by reporters.

Few should mind if Spezza is less media-friendly than in the past, as long as he carries his share of the offence — and that will be a considerable weight.

Goalie Brian Elliott joined the group Monday. Filip Kuba, whose 2009-10 season was prematurely ended by back surgery, was on the ice, but appeared to cut his workout short. Peter Regin (13) and Zack Smith (15) were wearing their new numbers. 

Also participating was winger Shean Donovan, the popular 35-year-old the Senators have decided not to bring back. Donovan remains hopeful of catching on with another team or finding something to his liking in Europe.

Meanwhile, if the talk is more than just talk and players like winger Bobby Butler or defencemen Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch really do have a shot at a job, it will come at the expense of veterans.

The blue-line positions are currently being filled by Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips, Kuba, Erik Karlsson, Matt Carkner, Chris Campoli and Brian Lee — the latter having spent most of last season in Binghamton, but now like the others in that he is also the owner of a one-way contract. That means there are already seven players for six spots.

It’s a similar situation for the 12 forward slots. The top six should be occupied by Spezza, Alfredsson, Kovalev, Fisher, Michalek and Regin, in one combination or another. The Senators already have one of the better third lines in the league, with Chris Kelly between Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil. And having a leg up on fourth-line jobs would seem to be youngsters Jesse Winchester and Smith, who has a two-way contract, but was an effective force in the playoff loss to Pittsburgh.

On paper, at least, that would leave one hole for veterans Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon — two players who the team believes have the potential to play on the first two lines, two players who are best suited for that type of role.

“I feel really good. It’s probably the best summer I’ve had in a long time,” said Foligno, the 22-year-old former first-rounder who was sidelined by a knee injury and broken leg last season.

“Just working on overall leg strength, and continuing with things young kids need to work on. I’m still young and I’ve still got a little ways to go, but I feel like I made huge strides this summer and I’m looking forward to showing that on the ice.”

While Foligno was recently re-signed for two more years at a salary of $1.2 million, Shannon will make $625,000 on his one-way contract.

“As anyone can see, the roster is full and it’s going to be a battle in training camp to find my spot,” said the 27-year-old speedster, whose last season was interrupted by a concussion. “Personally, I have very lofty goals. Last season, my mindset was just to be in the lineup, to stay in the lineup, to fight every day just to be in the lineup. Now, my sights are a little bit higher. Instead of scratching and clawing for crumbs, I want a bigger piece of the pie.”


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