Frantically grasping to save his NHL career, Marek Svatos came up with nothing but handfuls of air in his first 10 games as a Senator.
He had no goals, no assists and a minus-3 rating ... at this rate, not only was the former Colorado Avalanche sniper approaching a one-way street out of the league, but the only way he’d be playing in his hometown of Kosice, Slovakia (site of the 2011 world championship) anytime soon was in a game of pickup with buddies.
Admittedly struggling with his confidence and wondering where he could buy a break, Svatos was asked, hours before facing the great Martin Brodeur and the rest of the stingy New Jersey Devils on St. Patrick’s Day, if he had any Irish in him.
The 29-year-old winger laughed, shook his head, then delivered a joke that essentially said not yet.
“Maybe I should take a couple of shots today,” he cracked.
Might have loosened him up a little.
Svatos played on a line with Ryan Shannon and Erik Condra Thursday and, just past the midway mark of the second period, was poised to snap out of his slump. But his quick wrist shot, headed for the top corner, was snagged by Brodeur.
Svatos also had Brodeur at his mercy with three minutes to go in the third, but fired high.
Senators coach Cory Clouston says Svatos has not been 100% healthy, but with the grip he’s got going, there could also be some danger of developing tendonitis.
“For whatever reason, he’s squeezing his stick,” said Clouston, who also coached Svatos in the WHL. “I’ve seen him at a younger age, but I’ve also seen him at this level be a very good goal scorer. And right now, he gets two or three chances a game and he hasn’t pulled the trigger.
“He’s not scoring, he’s putting a little pressure on himself. It becomes that ripple effect. He’s got to slow that down, focus on the process and not worry about the fact that he’s had a lot of chances and just hasn’t scored. That just starts to play with your mind.”
Svatos, who had 32 goals in 61 games with the Avs in 2005-06, is not using excuses.
He’s also not getting as many chances as his coach will have you believe. While averaging around 14 minutes a game, he entered Thursday with just 18 shots on goal.
“I had some issues from the past but I can’t blame it on the injury. When it comes to finding myself with an opportunity, it’s not the injury,” he said. “It’s more, I think it comes to the skill, and I think I need to find a little bit of a break, too, and hopefully the puck will go to the back of the net.
“It’s frustrating. It’s a mental game for me. I’ve got to be a little more loose, or whatever it is, and I’ve got to bury the chances. Every player loses confidence. It’s a tough thing to get back.”
In 336 NHL games, Svatos has 97 goals to go along with his 70 assists. If he doesn’t score his 100th in the next three weeks, he might never get another a chance. Barring injury, that would mean he had two goals or less in 22 games while frantically grasping for another contract.
Not exactly sniper-like production.
“I’m under a little bit of pressure,” he admitted. “When I came here, I wanted to do my best, to show everybody I can play still, in this league. And I’m still trying. Hopefully the results are going to come.”
When Pascal Leclaire joined the Senators, he didn’t even try to hide his fondness of St. Hubert chicken and how much he’d like to do a commercial for the Quebec-based restaurant. Rookie winger Colin Greening feels the same way about Farm Boy. “I love that place,” said Greening. “It’s just so fresh. Whenever I come here, I try to get some fruit and stuff for my hotel room.” Asked if he was auditioning as a spokesman for the grocery store chain, Greening laughed. “If they come knocking, I won’t turn them away,” he joked.
Things I think I think
Ryan Patrick Shannon was misused as a winger. Shannon, who scored his second power-play goal in two games, continues to look much better since being moved to centre — with the Senators down a pair, after the trading of Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly. Shannon has played mostly on the wing as a pro, but that’s not his original position. “When I played in Portland (for the AHL Pirates), I was playing with Zenon Konopka and Dustin Penner,” he said of the 2005-06 campaign. “I was originally a centremen in college, but when you’re playing with Zenon Konopka and Dustin Penner, Zenon’s not going to play the wing. I played on the right side.” Shannon led the team in scoring with 86 points as the Pirates reached the conference final ... David Hale was solid in his first game on the Senators blueline since Nov. 26. He might have been recalled from Binghamton sooner, but he missed about a month of action with a flu that went around the rooom a couple of times ... The Devils, who finally made it over the .500 hump just before the landed in Ottawa, have been doing a lot of iPhone watching during their improbable run at a playoff spot. “That iPhone, it’s easy to check it out (scores), everywhere you want, whenever you want,” said Martin Brodeur. “We’re always a bunch of guys together, so we always look at that. And it’s hard to go somewhere in Canada and not have a hockey game on TV. We watch. This is what we do. We take a lot of pride, coming back from the position we put ourselves into.” ... With all the talk about Craig Anderson’s mask, nobody has said much about the face protector worn by his goalie partner, Curtis McElhinney. Included in the paint job is some latin scripture that says ... what? “Direct translation, I couldn’t even tell you anymore,” said McElhinney. “The helmets are three years old. I think it’s spelled wrong and I stole it out of book.” Come on. You must have some idea what it says. “It was supposed to be an interpretation of Dante’s Inferno,” explained McElhinney. “It’s one of the lines from the book. I think we just misplaced one of the letters somewhere along the line.” A couple of minutes later, Cheapsaeats’ crackerjack research team cracked the code. The words on the back of his mask, loosely translated, means Abandon all hope Ye who enter. “Yeah,” said McElhinney. “That’s it.”
Just about everybody wears green on Mar. 17, right? Irish or not. Senators centre Jesse Winchester had on a green shirt when he showed up at the rink Thursday morning.
Any Irish in you, Jesse?
“My girlfriend (Alana Brady) is Irish,” he said. “She flies in tonight.”
No dirty jokes, please.
“I’m travelling to Ireland this summer,” said Winchester. “It’s just a place in the world I haven’t been before. We’re just travelling, man.”
What is your ancestory?
“Somewhere in the U.K.”
You’re not sure?
“My dad’s going to kill me. My mom’s going to kill me.”
They won’t be happy.
“Winchester .. I know in some far out language it means ‘Winter Castle.’ I know my mom’s side has a little French. I’d say it’s mostly English, our family.”
But you’re not certain ...
“I don’t really get asked that often. When people say, hey, ‘where do you come from?’ I tell them Long Sioux. I’ve never really met anybody from overseas, that’s family related.”
Yeah, but everybody sort of knows their background a little bit, eh?
“I don’t really know it that well. It’s probably one of my shortcomings.
“I’m pretty sure I’m not Irish.”
No, but somewhat humorous.
A big hit
“Every time I throw on the jersey, I go out and play for the logo on the front. If I’m going out and finishing my checks, I’m doing my job.” — RW Chris Neil, who has continued to do what he does best - finish checks - despite the fact the Senators haven’t played a game with playoff implications in a long time. Entering the game Neil was eighth in the league with 217 hits.