Cheapseats: Greening a big hit
DON BRENNAN, QMIA gency
|Senators forward Colin Greening looks for a rebound as Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec makes a save at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ont., Oct. 20,2011. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency)
OTTAWA - The number of media in the Senators dressing room Thursday morning made it feel like the hours leading up to a Toronto-Ottawa game.
Among the crowd were ex-players who have found jobs in radio, TV or newspaper business. Todd White, Jason York, Brian Engblom, “Sheriff” Shane Hnidy, Enrico Ciccone, Denis Potvin ... the way the Senators had played their previous two home games, somebody should have given these guys jerseys.
As they milled, I chatted with Colin Greening, the big Senators left winger playing his first full year in the NHL. Greening is a smart guy — in his last year at Cornell University he was named the ECAC Hockey Student-Athlete of the Year. I asked him if he’d be interested in joining the media ranks one day. He laughed and said he’s not thinking that far ahead, that he just hopes he’ll get another contract from the Senators.
At 25, he’ll likely sign a few more. Especially if he keeps progressing the way he has.
Against the Winnipeg Jets Thursday, Greening was exceptional. He played left wing on a newly formed first line, with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. He had two assists, and he could have had at least two goals. If he develops a finishing touch, Greening has all the tools to become the best power forward the Senators have had.
A great skater with size (6-foot-3, 212 lbs.) and work ethic, Greening is locked up for two more seasons after this one at an annual salary of $816,667. He’s a great bargain for the Senators at that, but at the rate he’s going he’ll cost them some big bucks in the future.
STARTS AND STOPS
Craig Anderson made a number of huge stops at key times. The first-period goal that beat him, a Dustin Byfuglien slap from the point, deflected off the sticks of Greening and Erik Karlsson before finding mesh. As hard as big Buff can fire it, somebody should have been out trying to actually block the shot ... The Jets had 10 blocked shots in the first. The Senators had two. This is becoming a bit of an issue for Ottawa ... This just in from the Cheapseats crackerjack research team — Filip Kuba was NOT the softest big man in the NHL last season. Kuba only had 23 hits in 64 games, but another defenceman who stands at least 6-foot-4, Calgary’s Anton Babchuk, recorded just 19 in 82 games. Kuba is playing like a madman so far this season, with five hits through six games ... Kuba entered the night as the team leader in blocked shots with nine. Didn’t Anton Volchenkov used to have that many in a period?
STUFF I THINK I THUNK
Daniel Alfredsson entered the game with the second-worst plus-minus (minus-7) rating on the team and would have had that get worse had Anderson not made a great save off Kyle Wellwood following a giveaway by the captain. Is Alfredsson’s play on the decline? Maybe, but he also still has his flashes of greatness, like when he intercepted a Johnny Oduya pass and skated in to fire a perfect shot that gave the Senators a 3-1 lead. It was vintage Alfie, you might say ... There are few if any Senators who have done their particular job better than Zenon Konopka has his — most recently, he earned special mention from coach Paul MacLean after the Washington game and then, in 6:20 of ice time against Philadelphia, he had an assist, two fights and went 5-1 in the faceoff circles — yet Thursday, with friends in town to watch him play his 200th NHL game, Konopka was a healthy scratch. I get that a fourth-line centre is the obvious choice when another fourth-line centre (Jesse Winchester) is ready to make his return from injury, but hope that MacLean didn’t think he was improving his team’s chances for offence with the exchange. In 199 games, Konopka has eight goals. In 202, Winchester has nine ... It was close, but I think the Jets were given a more rousing welcome at the start of the night than the Senators were given by the 17,919 fans .... Don’t remember Michalek playing right wing before. He handled the move well ...
Kirkland Lake’s Claude Noel used his “Grade 6 French” to do pre-game interviews with the local francophone media. He clearly went to a better school than I did ... Noel, who played for the North Bay Trappers Tier II team, told Jets radio analyst Shane Hnidy that the guy who covered the Trappers for the Nugget was “one of the greatest men and greatest reporters of all-time.” That was my dad. Go Jets ... The Senators didn’t score on a first-period, four-minute power play, but they came close when Erik Karlsson rang a shot off the post. Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec gave the pipe a thank you pat ... Jared Cowen entered the night with the sixth highest ice time average among Senators defenceman, at 17:08. This, despite the fact he’s been Ottawa’s most physical blue liner. He has 13 hits, seven of which he was credited with in Washington. “Some nights you get a goose egg and some nights you have more than you should,” he said of the counts in different rinks. “Sometimes it’s not always the way it should be, but that’s fine. I’m not letting it get in my head or anything. I’m not necessarily counting, but sometimes at the end of the game i know I did more than usual.” He does take pride in his hit totals, however. “It’s a good one,” he said of the cateogry. “I think it’s one the team needs for sure. We need a higher hit count for sure.”
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM ...
Skilled players are allowed to hit. David Rundblad’s latest was a Volchenkov-like hit on Derek Meech in the second ... Brian Kilrea’s favorite, Anne Murray, was in attendance. She looks like she’s getting younger, Killer ... Love the in-house Wisers commercial, that disappointingly wasn’t shown Thursday, featuring White, York, Shaun Van Allen and Shean Donovan. On an unrelated topic, York is claiming it was he, and not I, that gave Hnidy the “Sheriff” nickname that followed him through his career. I thought York was Wisers than that ... Chris Neil set Mika Zibanejad up for what would have been his first goal had he not been robbed by Pavelec.
In his final practice day before being declared ready to return, Winchester had a very hard day’s work. How does a hockey player replenish his system? In Winchester’s case, it was a protein shake before a 3 p.m. lunch that included salad and penne, then dinner that included two salads, bread and more penne, then a late night protein shake and a “couple of chips.” ... While he was out, Winchester got some things done around the house. “Set up my garage,” he said. “It was kind of a chore. Recycling station, tools on the wall ....” Cowen hasn’t been told he’s here for the year yet. “I wish,” he said. “Still in the hotel.”