David Hale has a little something on the rookies with whom he’s battling for a suddenly available defenceman’s job in Ottawa.
It’s called 302 games of NHL experience.
All things equal in performance, the Senators would likely keep Hale over top prospects like Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen among the seven blueliners they take into the regular season next month. They signed the 29-year-old Hale to a two-way contract in the summer just in case of an injury like the broken leg that will keep Filip Kuba out of action until November.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Hale said of making his Senators debut Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre. “I know there’s an opportunity there. I just need to go out and showcase my skills.”
Hale, a Colorado Springs, Colo., native who was selected by the Devils in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2000 draft, is with his fifth NHL organization. Along with 141 games for the Devils over three seasons, he has also suited up for Calgary, Phoenix and Tampa Bay.
He spent last season with the Lightning, but was limited to just 39 games due, ironically enough, to a broken leg. This summer he signed with the Senators instead of accepting a two-way deal from the Predators.
“There’s a lot of guys without jobs right now and it was hard to find a contract,” Hale said. “I think I was lucky to sign with this organization. I felt like it was a good opportunity for me, as far as their winning record and how they develop in Binghamton.
“I think teams now are looking toward younger players a little bit more, so I certainly had to come with the mindset of winning a position. It’s definitely not (a given) for me. So we’ll see what happens.”
Hale, who spent the early part of his career bouncing between New Jersey and its farm team, has never quite established himself as a full-time NHL regular, nor lived up to his first-round billing. Why?
“Maybe it’s a bit of inconsist play, and just some unfortunate events, whether it’s out of my control or not. Can’t really pinpoint that,” he said. “I’m not going to dwell on that, either. This year is a new year and hopefully I can turn it around and have a great year.”
Brian Elliott, Robin Lehner and Mike Brodeur are the goalies making the trip, and while coach Cory Clouston wouldn’t say which of them is starting Tuesday, he stated that two of them would get a half game in Toronto and the other would get two halves. “Pascal (Leclaire) and Brian will at least get two full games,” Clouston said of his top two stoppers. “As it stands, they’ll get at least another half game as well.” ... Leclaire is keeping mum about his goals this season. “If the team does good, everybody looks good,” he said. “Just be part of it. Try to play as many minutes as possible. If you can get on a role, we’ll see what happens. I don’t want to say any numbers. I have my little ideas in mind, but I’m not telling you guys.” ... Daniel Alfredsson was skipping around defenders during one shift at Monday’s scrimmage. Almost looked like he was 25 years old again. “Especially having the surgery after the season, you want to push yourself, see how you can handle harder workouts, longer skates,” Alfredsson, who had a sports hernia fixed up in May, said of his approach to camp. “You don’t want to wait until the exhibition season starts or the season starts. You want to try it right away.” Things are different than when he was actually was a 25-year-old, Alfredsson pointed out. “I think I dreaded training camp more in the past when it was longer because coaches had more time to really bag skate you,” he said.