ST. PAUL, Minn. — It was a nice homecoming for Brian Lee and his family Thursday night.
After Lee was a healthy scratch in 25 straight games, the wait finally ended for the 23-year-old blueliner when he returned against the Minnesota Wild in place of the injured Matt Carkner at the Xcel Energy Center.
With Carkner bothered by a cut he suffered to his leg after getting tangled up in a drill with Erik Karlsson Tuesday in practice, Lee, a Minnesota native, was able to return in front of his family and friends.
His father Dick, mother Carol, brother John and grandparents Tom and Arlene Lee were all in the stands. Dick made the four-hour drive here Wednesday from Moorhead, Minn., to join the fathers’ trip.
“I’m happy I’m getting the chance,” said Lee, who hadn’t suited up since Oct. 22 and was sent off for hooking at 18:41 of the first. “I’m sure (Dick) is almost as happy as I am.”
Yes, Dick Lee was thrilled for his son.
“It’s been a while. We’re just happy he’s getting the opportunity to play in a game,” said the father. “That’s great that he gets to play here. He just wants to play wherever. It happens to be here and that’s wonderful.”
Dick Lee, who accompanied the team to Denver and will travel to Ottawa to see Sunday’s game against the Caps, said his son’s situation has been hard.
“I think (Brian) has probably handled it better than his mother and I have,” said Lee. “It’s a difficult situation. It is what it is and he’s certainly not the only one in the league who is going through this. It’s been difficult. Brian’s handled it very well from what we’ve been told.”
Coach Cory Clouston said Carkner needed a rest.
“It’s a good time to get Brian in but also, I think it’s a good time to give Matt the night off,” said Clouston. “We want make sure we don’t aggravate that.”
The Lees hope to have another NHL player. John, 21, a junior defenceman at Denver University, was drafted by the Florida Panthers in 2007 in the fifth round of the NHL draft.
JOKE’S ON DAD
Senators LW Nick Foligno asked his dad Mike, an assistant with Anaheim, to join the fathers’ trip. “I did, actually. As a joke, he was laughing,” said Foligno. “They’re on the road right now. They’re actually on the East Coast. I told him it would be easy to come up. He feels bad because last year he had a chance when he was in Sudbury and couldn’t pull away.” ... Matt Cullen, who didn’t suit up against with his former team because of a groin injury, said he had contract talks with the Senators. “We talked to Ottawa a lot, but I think at the time their defensive situation was really up in the air,” said Cullen, who signed a three-year, $10.5-million deal with the Wild. “I don’t think they were really able to negotiate on that level because they were still trying to figure out what they were going to do with the blue line.”
THINGS I THINK I THINK
Don’t get C Jason Spezza wrong, he loves having his father Reno on the road, but he was a little surprised when they checked into their hotel room late Monday. “He unpacked his whole suitcase and put all his stuff neatly folded in drawers,” said Spezza. “I was like, ‘Do you know how long we’re staying? We’re going to be in here like 12 hours.’ He’s pretty organized, I’ll say that for him.” So, you do you do that, Jason? “It’s not like father, like son on that front,” said Spezza ... Former Senators RW Martin Havlat has been pleased with the way he’s been able to step up this season. “We’re playing better as a team as well and it’s all about the winning at the end of the night,” said Havlat, who had an assist on the opening goal by Kyle Brodziak ... Erik Karlsson didn’t look very good with Chuck Kobasew going around him to start the second period ... Ottawa D Chris Phillips may have made the save of the night when he jumped in front of a shot by Eric Nystrom, who had an open net midway through the first. In the second, Phillips blocked a Pierre-Marc Bouchard shot with the side of his head ... This was D Sergei Gonchar’s first game against Minny since last season when he elbowed Cal Clutterbuck and left him with a concussion. Gonchar was then with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tom Chorske, who suited up for the Senators from 1995-97, was on hand Thursday. He makes his home in the Twin Cities and works as an analyst on Wild broadcasts. Chorske became famous for the Buddha he carried around when Ottawa made its first trip to the playoffs in 1996-97. No, he doesn’t have it anymore. “It kind of just disappeared,” said Chorske. “We used to carry it around with us everywhere we went and then one day it just went missing.”
Minny coach Todd Richards was asked about Ottawa since the two teams don’t see each other a lot. “The thing about the NHL is there’s really no secrets,” said Richards. So what do you know about Ottawa? “Not a lot,” said Richards jokingly.