Smith not a Locke in Ottawa

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

He only has one goal in 35 games, but the Senators still have more faith in Peter Regin than they do the AHL’s second leading scorer. For now.

To replace the roster spot left vacant by the shoulder injury to Jason Spezza, the Senators have recalled the familiar Zack Smith from Binghamton. He’ll start on the fourth line Wednesday, when Ottawa tries to extend its winning streak to three games, while Regin is elevated to the second unit between Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek.

Asked if he thought of promoting former 67’s star Corey Locke, who has 40 points (11 goals) in 30 games for Bingo, GM Bryan Murray said he’d heard the question a number of times already.

“We’ll look at Zack to start with,” said Murray, “and then we’ll see where we go after that.”

Locke, who had 151 points (63 goals) in 66 games for Brian Kilrea during the 2002-03 season, has been a consistent producer since turning pro. But there’s a reason he’s only played four games (0 goals, 0 assists) in the NHL over the past seven seasons. He’s considered too small and too slow for the best league in the world.

“It’s one thing to score in the AHL, it’s another to score in the NHL,” said coach Cory Clouston. “We feel that we’ve got a guy in Peter Regin, who if you look at his numbers in the American League was a very good scorer the last part of his career there. He is a natural centre, bigger body, faster skater. When you lose (a Spezza), it’s not just one player for one. Different pieces of puzzles have to fit together. And to me, Zack’s strength is something we could use. He’s playing well, too.

“Last game was a physical game. We want to make sure we’ve got that aspect in our lineup.”

The Senators have survived without Spezza before. They won 10 of the 20 games (Dec. 16-Jan. 21) he missed last season with a knee injury, and 3-of-4 in which he was sidelined by a groin problem in October.

Different players will be asked to pick up the slack. Nick Foligno will move to the first power-play unit, alongside Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson. Clouston is looking at three players to pick up Spezza’s penalty-killing duties — Smith, Jesse Winchester and Ryan Shannon.

Spezza will be missed on faceoffs as he has emerged as one of the league’s better drawmen.

While he isn’t scoring at his regular pace, Spezza is the Senators’ offensive catalyst. 

Heading into Tuesday’s games, only four NHL teams had scored less than Ottawa, and all had played fewer games.

“I’m not going to say we can replace Jason Spezza, but Jason at times has struggled offensively as well,” said Clouston. “We need three or four guys to step up in offensive roles.”

Perhaps the move back to his natural position will spark Regin.

“Sometimes it’s easier to kind of get into the games as a centre,” he said. “As a winger, you have to create something all the time. If you’re on the top lines you have the pressure, you have to create stuff. As a centre you can do lots of other things to help the team. You can be solid defensively, and that way work yourself into the games, and get confidence and create chances after that.”

Regin, who had 13 goals last season, is baffled by the fact that, thus far in 2010-11, he has just one more than goalie Brian Elliott and one less than Smith, who only played 10 games with Ottawa before being demoted because of cap issues.

“I feel good on the ice, and that’s the thing,” said Regin. “I’m still waiting for it to go in. I’ve had a lot of chances throughout the year, even in the beginning, but didn’t put the puck in the net. I guess that’s the big secret here. If it starts going in, you’ll get more confidence and score more goals.

“I’m disappointed in that but at the same time I feel it’s not because I haven’t tried. I know I’ve tried hard. I know it will turn around. I know I can score more goals than one.

“I’m trying to be patient and just trying to work every day. I know it will turn around.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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