Mika survives as Sens chop roster

Mika Zibanejad smiles during the Ottawa Senators practice on October 1, 2011. (ERROL MCGIHON/QMI...

Mika Zibanejad smiles during the Ottawa Senators practice on October 1, 2011. (ERROL MCGIHON/QMI Agency)

Bruce Garrioch, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 PM ET

Mika Zibanejad can unpack his bags.

At least until a couple of injured players return, the 18-year-old rookie sensation will get a chance to prove he belongs in Ottawa.

After cuts were announced on Saturday, Zibanejad made the Senators roster along with rookies Stephane Da Costa, Jared Cowen and David Rundblad. Five players — Robin Lehner, Mark Borowiecki, Patrick Wiercioch, Kaspars Daugavins and Mike Hoffman — were sent to Binghamton.

After a strong performance by the top draft pick in June, Zibanejad will make his debut in the Senators’ season opener Friday in Detroit and there’s a good chance he’ll start on a line with captain Daniel Alfredsson.

“It went better than I expected,” said Zibanejad, who led the club in exhibition game goal scoring with three in six games. “I didn’t have high expectations for myself. I just wanted to get involved and I did, so I’m happy about the camp for sure.

“It’s the first time, it’s the first training camp and there are a lot of adjustments you have to (make) coming from Europe.”

Zibanejad isn’t here just because he was the No. 6 overall pick and the Senators are trying to sell hope. He deserves the nine-game audition (until his NHL contract kicks in) before a final decision has to be made.

Not only has Zibanejad shown he’s got the skills to compete, he has also worked hard to be physical. Alfredsson said the rookie impressed the coaching staff with a strong performance Thursday in a tough building in Boston.

“His overall game is really solid,” said Alfredsson. “If you’re going to play a lot of minutes, like he has during the exhibition (season), you have to know how to play all over the ice.

“When you’re a high pick, that usually means you have a lot of skill, but for a guy who doesn’t have much experience playing against men, he’s smart with and without the puck and that’s why he’s surprised a lot of people.”

Zibanejad knows it’ll get tougher and is prepared for the challenge.

“It’s hard to say, there’s a difference between the pre-season and the regular season for sure,” he said.

“We’ll see what happens when every team has their best team. You’ve got to be able to take your game to the next level.”

Rundbland up ... for now

With injuries on the blueline, the Senators delayed a decision on Rundblad. The status of Matt Carkner won’t be known until Monday, but he’s doubtful for Friday’s game and the club only has six healthy defencemen with Chris Phillips having back issues.

Da Costa’s future will depend on Peter Regin’s shoulder. The Senators don’t have to finalize a 23-man roster until 48 hours before the start of the season and can place two players on injured reserve to reach the limit.


Videos

Photos