Cheapseats: Hard knock on Sens' Smith
Message or not, MacLean doesn't mince words about scratching centre
Bruce Garrioch, QMI Agency
|Florida Panthers goalie Jose Theodore (L) makes a save against Ottawa Senators' Rob Klinkhammer (C) during their game in Sunrise, Florida on March 4, 2012. (REUTERS/Rhona Wise)
SUNRISE, Fla. — Zack Smith was given a wakeup call Sunday.
While Senators coach Paul MacLean wouldn’t say he was sending a message by scratching the gritty centre for the first time this season, it sure looked that way.
“I’m not sure we’re going to call it that, but you have to play well to play in the league,” said MacLean. “We evaluate it on a game-by-game basis. At this point, the other 12 forwards are playing better.”
Many believed winger Rob Klinkhammer had been recalled because MacLean has had enough of Bobby Butler’s lack of production, but the Binghamton callup was inserted for Smith.
“He has to play harder, be more physical in the role that he has and be a better penalty-killer ... So be more consistent,” said MacLean.
The fact Smith, who has 13 goals this season, hasn’t scored in 12 games doesn’t mean a whole lot. That’s not his role. The Senators simply aren’t happy with his compete level lately.
MacLean said ice time has to be earned.
“You have to earn the opportunity to play in the league and it’s on a nightly basis and a daily basis,” he said. “That’s what we said from Day 1 here ... That’s what we expect.”
MacLean doesn’t buy the theory that the likes of Smith, Erik Condra and Colin Greening have hit the wall, exhausted from a 12-month stretch that saw them extend their 2010-11 campaigns to help Binghamton win the Calder Cup last spring.
“It’s possibly a factor, but the goals and points aren’t the mitigating factor with these players,” said MacLean. “It’s consistency, playing well, playing with an edge. That’s why they’re not in the lineup.”
THE MORNING SKATE
Klinkhammer, who got the call Saturday and arrived in the evening, came ready to play. The 25-year-old, who has 12 goals and 23 assists in 35 games with the Baby Sens, suited up for only the second NHL game of his career. The first was 15 months ago — on Dec. 10, 2010, with the Blackhawks. “I’m just excited,” said Klinkhammer, who led all players with seven hits. “I’m just going to try to make the most of it. Have some fun and try not to be too nervous. I’m not a really fancy player. I’m not one of the skilled guys. I just try to work hard and go get the puck, grind it out in the corners and go to the net. I’ve been lucky down there.” ... G Craig Anderson, out with a cut on his hand suffered in a kitchen accident, accompanied the Senators on the trip, but wasn’t on the ice for the optional skate Sunday.
THIS ’N’ THAT
The plan was to recall newly acquired G Ben Bishop from Binghamton to suit up against the Panthers, but that was put on hold because of the way Robin Lehner has performed. MacLean said Bishop will soon get a chance with Ottawa. “We want to see him play in some games,” said MacLean. “We fully plan to take a look, we just want to make sure he’s comfortable to come up and play a game.” ... D Matt Carkner was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game. He has suited up only once in the past 11. There was interest in the rugged blueliner at the trade deadline, but the Senators want his presence.
OFF THE GLASS
Florida D Erik Gudbranson, an Orleans native, was also a healthy scratch. He played sparingly in the third vs. Nashville and was benched for the final 12 minutes ... The Senators flew to Ocala, just north of Tampa, after the game to spend time at owner Eugene Melnyk’s Winding Oaks Farm. The 1,000-plus-acre property houses 400-to-450 horses, depending on how many Melnyk has racing at the time ... Former Senators D Jason York’s nickname for Klinkhammer: “The Missing Klink.” Yorkie has Cheapseats’ backing on that one.
AND ANOTHER THING
Great work by Jim O’Brien on Chris Neil’s goal at 18:32 of the first ... The Senators haven’t decided what to do with C Mika Zibanejad, whose season in Sweden ends Tuesday. If the 2011 first-rounder comes to Ottawa, he burns a year on his contract. Zibanejad could play in Binghamton on an amateur tryout deal ... Good news for the Senators: Of their remaining 15 games, eight are against teams not currently in a playoff position ... Not sure how Krys Barch got in all alone behind the Ottawa defence to tie the game in the second. But, please, this was Krys Barch. The Senators made him look like an offensive dynamo ... D Erik Karlsson can’t afford many nights like this if he wants to win the Norris. He took two bad penalties in the third and he was minus-2.