Senators 'chomping at the bit'
Veterans Michalek, Neil happy to see end of long summer
BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
|Senators forward Milan Michalek said Wednesday he is 100% after a broken foot caused him to miss 16 games last season. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters file photo)
OTTAWA - The Senators’ off-season is all but over and that suits Milan Michalek just fine.
“I can’t wait to get going,” Michalek said Wednesday.
The Senators will kick things off Thursday by hitting the links at Kanata for a charity golf tournament. Friday the 59 players invited to camp will have their medicals and on Saturday the battle for jobs officially begins at training camp.
The players will be split into three groups named after Senators alumni: Laurie Boschman, Brad Marsh and Jim Kyte.
Not many veteran players remain, but the ones who GM Bryan Murray kept are excited Paul MacLean is the new coach and that the team has a solid base of young talent.
“It has been a long off-season,” said winger Chris Neil, who is heading into his 11th season with Ottawa. “We’re definitely looking forward to getting things going. Obviously, your workouts drag on whenever you have a long summer. I’m chomping at the bit to get going.”
And for the first time in about 15 years, the Senators aren’t expected to do very much this season.
If you believe the pre-season publications, Ottawa will finish somewhere between 12th and 15th in the Eastern Conference.
Regardless, the Senators would like to surprise a few people.
“It’s nice that there is no pressure on us,” said Neil. “Every time you suit up, you want to give yourself the best chance to win possible, so we want to come out with a goal to make the playoffs. If we can make it, anything can happen.
“You’ve seen No. 8 seeds get into the playoffs and make it to the finals. Our goal is definitely to make the playoffs. Expectations aren’t high from the outside, but on the inside we do have expectations of ourselves and after last year, that finish was disappointing.”
The Senators are buoyed by the fact their youngsters won the four-team rookie tournament Tuesday in Oshawa with a 4-3 OT victory over the Maple Leafs on the strength of Mark Stone’s goal.
Centre Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa’s No. 1 pick in the June draft, was one of the top players. He and Stephane Da Costa, a free-agent signing from Merrimack College, are going to push Peter Regin for the second-line centre job.
“It’s great to see the young talent we’ve got here,” said the 32-year-old Neil. “They’re going to push us old guys. It was tough to see teammates (he) had for a long time go, but it was the way (the Senators) felt they had to go.
“You see a lot of kids coming in that are going to be replacing Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly. They’re fitting those holes really well and it’s good to see.”
After breaking his foot last season, Michalek said Wednesday he’s been skating for the last month and will be able to participate in MacLean’s first camp.
“I’m back to 100% and it feels good,” said Michalek, who suited up for only 66 games last season. “Hopefully, it’s going to be a lot better than last year.”