|Former Senators defenceman Chris Campoli laughs as he speaks with the media in Ottawa after being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 24, 2011. (ERROL MCGIHON/QMI Agency)
Twenty games from the finish line, the Senators’ coaching staff and players have but a single goal in mind.
“(To) piss off our scouts, how’s that? By moving up (in the standings) a little bit,” coach Cory Clouston said Monday when asked of the team’s post-trade deadline plans. “We do that by winning games and playing hard.”
The 29th-place Senators have been better of late, uncharacteristically grabbing three of their past four behind the solid goaltending of Craig Anderson and with players auditioning for jobs.
Defenceman Chris Campoli was hired by the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in Ottawa’s only D-Day trade. In return, GM Bryan Murray received a second-round draft pick and 26-year-old forward Ryan Potulny, who scored 15 goals with the Edmonton Oilers last season. The Senators will send a seventh round pick to Chicago if they wind up re-signing Potulny, who will likely make his Ottawa debut Tuesday at Scotiabank Place against Boston.
After making the deal, Murray said he was trying to move two players, and one was Campoli, a pending restricted free agent this summer who he had no plans to qualify. Safely assume the other was defenceman Filip Kuba.
“Chicago is a great opportunity for me, personally,” said Campoli. “I think a realistic expectation for them is to win the Stanley Cup. I think I’m going to fit in well.”
Campoli,who was acquired from the Islanders with Mike Comrie for a first-rounder and Dean McAmmond at the 2008-09 deadline, never did reach expectations offensively, but he believes he became a more complete player as a Senator.
“Last year was a year of maybe ups and downs for me, maybe a little inconsistency,” he said. “As a team, we had a great year and it was a great experience. Something new for me, playing in a Canadian market. There was definitely an adjustment. This year, I thought for the most part I played pretty solid, pretty well. I was real consistent. That was one of my goals coming into the season. Offensively my numbers (three goals, 11 assists, 58 games) weren’t there like maybe they’ve been in the past. My role changed and I felt like I took more responsibility defensively and really found a side of my game that made me overall a more well-rounded player.”
Potulny, a native of Grand Forks, N.D., was a third-round pick (87th overall) of the Flyers in 2003. He exhibited a great scoring touch in college, scoring 38 goals in 41 games with the University of Minnesota in 2005-06. In 119 NHL games, the 6-foot, 190-pounder has 22 goals, 27 assists and 54 PIMs.
With Ottawa, he joins a lineup that will get three veterans back from injury Tuesday, but still has a distinct Binghamton flavour to it.
Despite their modest success of late, the Senators remain in the East cellar, three points behind the Islanders, and three points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers, who occupy last spot in the NHL.
While some fans are hoping the Senators stay as close to the bottom of the overall standings as possible to increase their chances at the first pick overall in the June draft, players are obviously not thinking that way.
“For us, we’re just playing for pride,” said Jason Spezza. “It’s embarrassing to lose hockey games every night.”
Spezza said defeating the Flyers 4-1 Saturday was a boost to the morale.
“You could see guys were pretty happy after beating the top team in the East,” he said. “It gives a lot of the young guys confidence. You can tell the guys that there’s parity and you have a chance to win every night, but until guys live through it and actually win a few games, maybe then they start believing it. It gives us a little belief that going forward we can win with the group we have.”