April 10, 2012
Zibanejad rejoins Sens, not likely to play
By DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency
OTTAWA - Right now, first-round Senators pick Mika Zibanejad is scheduled to play in Binghamton’s last two games this weekend.
But after that, his immediate future is up in the air.
“We’re going to see where he fits in,” coach Paul MacLean said Monday, after Zibanejad practised with the Senators following a 17-hour trek from Sweden. “Right now there’s a consideration ... he’d be allowed to play for us, if we wanted to do that. But we just have to make sure that’s the right thing to do.”
Barring a rash of injuries at the forward position, it would seem unlikely the Senators would play the speedy teenager in these playoffs, as it would burn a year off his entry-level contract. What’s more, Zibanejad didn’t exactly rip up the elite league back home, scoring five goals and eight assists in 26 games for Djurgarden.
At the same time, MacLean did leave the door open to the possibility.
The Rangers have a similar decision to make on right winger Chris Kreider, their first-round pick in 2009, who was the leading scorer as a junior for NCAA-champion Boston College.
“It was up and down,” Zibanejad said of his season. “Especially (because) we got relegated. It’s too bad.
“I finished good. I’m happy to be back here. I’m excited for this.”
Zibanejad played the first nine games of the schedule for the Senators, registering just one assist and at times looking completely out of place. Ottawa management returned him to his team in Sweden thinking it was the best thing for his progress.
Zibanejad did score the first gold-medal winning goal for his country at the world juniors in more than 30 years.
“Hopefully,” Zibanejad said with a short laugh when asked if he improved as a player in the past five months. “It was quite a tough year for the team and for myself. There were a couple of injuries and stuff. I was up in the world juniors ... it’s been a lot, that I went through this season, but I think it’s good experience for the future, for sure.”
Zibanejad said he hasn’t been told by management or the coaching staff that there’s a possibility he’ll play for Ottawa this spring, but speaks as though he thinks it exists.
“I have to practice hard every day, to get ready if something happens,” he said. “You’ve got to be ready to step in. It would be good for me to play those games in Bingo, to get ready for a game situation and all that. It’s fun to be here but I’m just taking it a day at a time.”