Senators look past Locke

Corey Locke may get the callup from Binghamton to help fill the gap left by Alex Kovalev. (QMI...

Corey Locke may get the callup from Binghamton to help fill the gap left by Alex Kovalev. (QMI Agency file photo)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

OTTAWA - The stage was set for the Senators to finally call up Corey Locke.

But they're going in another direction.

Sources have told the Sun the Senators are bringing Jim O'Brien back to fill in for Alex Kovalev, their second Top 6 forward to hit the shelf.

With the announcement that struggling Kovalev will sit at least a week to give his troublesome, surgically repaired knee a rest, Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said the team was considering Locke, who has played just four NHL games, as a replacement.

Who just said, finally? Oh, everybody. Now, the question is why not Locke?

Clouston mentioned three other names as potential callups from Bingo: Winger Erik Condra (14 goals, 22 assists, 36 points), winger Bobby Butler (18 goals, 9 assists, 27 points) and O'Brien (12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points).

While Kovalev joins Jason Spezza on Ottawa's injury list, Mike Fisher is "probable" for Tuesday's game in Boston -- as the Senators have plummeted to 29th in scoring, ahead of only the New Jersey Devils.

Locke, a smallish, 5-foot-9, 185-pounder who NHL teams have also deemed too slow, is tearing up the AHL with the Binghamton Senators.

With 51 points (13 goals, 38 assists), he is the AHL's top scorer, a half dozen up on Hamilton's David Desharnais. A seven-year pro, Locke is coming off his best season (31 goals, 85 points in 76 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack).

"I'm ready," Locke told the Sun Monday from Portland, where the Baby Senators were preparing for a Tuesday meeting with the Pirates. "It sucks that (the Senators) are in a situation where they've been going through a rough spell. I know times are tough up there, but I'm down in the minors so I can get a chance to play in the NHL. I'll take any callup situation that arises."

While the Senators were expected to recall goalie Mike Brodeur to serve as Brian Elliott's backup, they curiously put off making an announcement on who would fill the hole at forward.

Clouston said that the self-dubbed Green Slime Line of Ryan Shannon, Jesse Winchester and Zack Smith could see more minutes, suggesting that whoever comes up from Binghamton would fill a fourth-line role.

"Just because you score down there doesn't mean it always translates up here. We're looking for some offence, and just some work ethic and energy," said Clouston, who clearly remembers when the Bingo cupboard was bare of talent that could play in the NHL. "Right now, the positive thing is we've got those guys, whether it's from junior, college or free-agent signings, those young guys who are ready to step in here over the next year and possibly this year as well."

While reminding reporters of Locke's diminutive stature, Clouston also raved about his offensive skills. One of Locke's specialities is running the power play.

"I'm not big," said Locke, who in 2002-03 scored 151 points for Brian Kilrea's 67's and has been the offensive leader for almost every team he has ever played on.

"I'm not going to push guys over, knock them over to get the puck. I'm going to try and be smart, create, and use some of my skills to do that stuff."

Locke's focus this season has been on producing at a regular clip. And that's exactly what he has done.

"I'm trying to tweak my game, I'm trying to improve my game ... I'm just trying to do everything possible to get called up," said the 26-year-old Toronto native.

"I've been pretty consistent all year (he's been held off the scoresheet just seven times). That's more what I kind of pride myself on. Consistency. That was Killer doing that. He'd say anyone can have a good weekend, or a good game here and there, but you have to string a few together. I feel like I've been consistent all year."

The Senators have lost five in a row to fall 11 points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but Clouston has especially liked his team's competitive level in the last two games, one-goal defeats at the hands of Chicago and Tampa.

"We feel we're real close to putting some wins together," said Clouston. "We just have to keep duplicating those efforts in those games."


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