BUFFALO — A surprised David Hale is getting a second chance to grab the blue-line spot he won in training camp.
Likely ahead of Brian Lee on the Senators’ depth chart at the end of camp, the journeyman was sent to the minors to get his $675,000 NHL salary off the cap.
Now, with the Senators struggling mightily in their own end, the 29-year-old has been recalled from Binghamton of the AHL just six games into the season. He arrived Thursday and will replace Lee in the lineup on Friday night at HSBC Arena.
“I’m not overly offensive (three goals in 302 NHL games). I’m not flashy, so hopefully I can bring some consistency and just play solid and be dependable,” said Hale.
“I was a little bit (surprised by the recall). I was always on edge a little bit, knowing I had to be ready if I did get called up. I couldn’t relax. I thought the guys were playing okay. I’m here. I’m not going to worry about that. I want to get in there and play well.”
The Senators aren’t expecting big numbers from Hale. What his presence does do is give the club flexibility to reunite fellow veterans Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips. Hale and Chris Campoli could form another pairing.
“The (defensive) pairings, we feel we may look a bit better as far as people who complement each other,” said coach Cory Clouston. “We might have a little bit better chemistry with the pairings and a little bit better mix with the pairings.”
The Senators will also have a new look on the power play. Just 2-for-24 with the man advantage, the club has bumped Erik Karlsson to the second unit and replaced the struggling blueliner with Daniel Alfredsson. That means four forwards and D Sergei Gonchar on the first unit. “It’s similar to what Pittsburgh is doing with a guy in the middle. Teams are becoming more aggressive and we’re trying to have more options with more outs,” said C Jason Spezza, who also saw time at the point in practice. “A good power play has success moving the puck around and we haven’t quite had that yet. We have to make the right decisions and decision-making comes when you have confidence as a group.”
CHANGE IT UP
The Senators spent part of their drill practising line changes. While they did it at times last season, there was more emphasis Thursday after two too-many-men penalties through six games of this campaign. “That’s a drill I’ve seen many teams use before,” said Clouston, adding the exercise also aims to counter the effect of puck-moving goalies. “We can’t have three guys changing at the same time,” he said. “And, obviously, the other is to make sure we’re replacing the proper guys.” The Senators had 13 too-many-men-penalties last season.