Phillips ready to 'be a leader'

With all the changes the Senators are facing this season, defenceman Chris Phillips knows a lot...

With all the changes the Senators are facing this season, defenceman Chris Phillips knows a lot will be expected of him. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:06 AM ET

OTTAWA - The battle for jobs will officially begin Saturday with the opening of the rookie tournament in Oshawa.

And a few veterans are going to be keeping a close eye on the proceedings.

The next phase in the rebuild of the Senators takes place as the club opens the four-team rookie tournament against the Pittsburgh Penguins’ newcomers at the GM Centre in Oshawa.

While there is an opening for a second-line centre, most will be watching what happens on defence as blue-chip prospects Jared Cowen, David Rundblad and Patrick Wiercioch try to push for spots on the big roster.

“You want all those guys to have good camps and get warmed up for main camp,” said veteran defenceman Chris Phillips following an informal workout at the Bell Sensplex on Thursday.

“That’s where you really start to evaluate guys and see how they’re playing with other NHL guys and against other NHL guys. It’s always interesting.”

The Senators vowed to get younger and build from the ground up when GM Bryan Murray started unloading veterans at February’s trade deadline. Phillips signed a three-year deal to avoid unrestricted free agency, so he’s in for the long haul.

Though Wiercioch is likely going to need more time to develop in Binghamton, Cowen and Rundblad would have to be terrible with the rookies and during the pre-season to not get a shot to make the roster.

What that’s going to mean for veterans like Brian Lee and Filip Kuba isn’t known, but Phillips is certain his role isn’t going to change just because the Senators are going younger.

A lot of the load will fall to Phillips and Sergei Gonchar.

“I don’t think my role is ever going to change too much,” said Phillips. “I just have to be ready to play, and ready to play a lot if that’s the case, and be strong defensively. I’ve got to make sure that I help (the young) guys out.

“I’m going to have to make sure I can communicate more with all the young guys and be a leader. But because we have a bunch of young guys, I don’t think I expect myself to go out there and score 40 goals. I’ll be ready to go.”

Phillips said he has had a couple of brief chats with coach Paul MacLean over the summer, but expects there will be more intense discussions during camp.

“We haven’t gone too deep on what’s going to happen,” said Phillips. “A lot of that kind of has to do with camp, depending on who rises up and who is going to be here. Then, we can figure out who is going to play with who from there.”


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