Lucky 7 for Sens?

An early re­port card on the young play­ers whose de­vel­op­ment could de­cide just how good their club is in 2011-12

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - WAYNE SCAN­LAN

The Sen­a­tors’ young guns clearly knew the midterm re­port card was com­ing down this week.

How else to ex­plain Bobby But­ler and Colin Green­ing end­ing lengthy slumps on Al­berta rinks, or a checker like Kas­pars Dau­gavins blast­ing a top-shelf beauty on Thurs­day?

At the quar­ter-point of a re­build­ing sea­son, the Sen­a­tors are one of the NHL’S mildly shock­ing sto­ries, a pleas­ant sur­prise at 10-9-1, hang­ing around the fi­nal play­off spot in the East­ern Con­fer­ence.

For the Sen­a­tors to crack the top eight, it could come down to the con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment of seven Sen­a­tors who headed west this week hav­ing played fewer than 50 ca­reer NHL games. What fol­lows are early grades turned in by Ot­tawa’s not-so-sil­ver seven, the Sen­a­tors’ lat­est wave of fresh tal­ent, with more kids on the hori­zon. Some of these marks jumped prac­ti­cally overnight as a few of the NHL stu­dents aced their fi­nal mid-term “tests.”

DE­FENCE JARED COWEN: AIn

his first 20 NHL games, Cowen has been every­thing the Sen­a­tors hoped he would be. Tough. Phys­i­cal. Strong de­fen­sively. A player on track to be de­vel­oped into a top-pair­ing, shut­down de­fence­man in the mould of a Zdeno Chara, if not quite as im­pos­ing at 6-5, 230 pounds. While Cowen has just one goal and no as­sists, the points will come as the rookie be­comes more com­fort­able in the league. Cowen pro­duced 48 points in 58 Western Hockey League games with Spokane last sea­son.

DAVID RUND­BLAD: CThe

tran­si­tion for Rund­blad has not been as smooth as Cowen’s for two rea­sons. 1. The Swedish rookie is ad­just­ing to a com­pletely dif­fer­ent style of game and size of ice sur­face. 2. Un­like Cowen’s stay-home ap­proach, Rund­blad’s game is pred­i­cated on skill and risk, and it will take time to do this at the NHL level. Rund­blad has been a healthy scratch this week, played in just 13 games over­all and could prob­a­bly use some time in AHL Bing­ham­ton to de­velop as op­posed to more time in Swe­den. Rund­blad has shown bril­liant flashes (re­mem­ber the stretch pass to Green­ing and the blue-line move that led to Nick Foligno’s last­sec­ond goal ver­sus Florida?) and hor­ri­ble give­aways. On bal­ance, Rund­blad could be an in­trigu­ing of­fen­sive de­fence­man down the road.

FOR­WARDS

BOBBY BUT­LER: C

But­ler has also bat­tled the healthy-scratch dis­ease, and a groin in­jury, all part of a hor­rific first few weeks of life on a one-way NHL con­tract. With 10 goals in 36 NHL games last sea­son, big things were ex­pected of BB, and so a nine-game drought, in and around be­ing out of the lineup, was ag­o­niz­ing for But­ler and Sen­a­tors fans alike. Aloha, Al­berta — two goals against Cal­gary on Tues­day and an as­sist on Thurs­day while see­ing his ice time boosted could be the spark of day­light But­ler needs to turn his sea­son around. He’s a shooter, right? Then shoot, Bobby, shoot! Four­teen shots in 11 games (10 prior to Cal­gary) does not a sniper make. If he keeps this up, he might even get rein­tro­duced to the power play.

STEPHANE DA COSTA: C+

The jury is out on Da Costa, a small, like­able cen­tre with ter­rific vi­sion. He has three goals and two as­sists in 20 games, but just one point in his past seven, an as­sist against the New York Rangers on Nov. 9. His face­off numbers are hor­ren­dous (6.25 per cent against the Oil­ers, 36.6 per cent over­all) and he will have to show he can com­pete in the heavy go­ing. With Peter Re­gin out, the former Mer­ri­mack Mar­vel is get­ting the op­por­tu­nity — 15:04 of ice in Edmonton with 3:25 on the power play.

ERIK CON­DRA: B

You could set your watch by this de­pend­able check­ing winger, who will nei­ther bring you out of your seat nor cause you to throw things at the tele­vi­sion. The or­ga­ni­za­tion loves his smarts, although his six goals, five as­sists in 26 games last sea­son may have been mis­lead­ing. So far, Con­dra is 1+3 for four points with a hand­some plus 3. Good on the PK, as is …

KAS­PARS DAU­GAVINS: B+

When a Bing­ham­ton oral sur­geon fixed Dau­gavins’ wis­dom teeth, he also mended Ot­tawa’s penalty killing is­sue — at no ex­tra charge. The unit has been vastly im­proved since Dau­gavins re­joined the team early this month. Af­ter open­ing the sea­son in the mi­nors, Dau­gavins has made the most of his pro­mo­tion, rip­ping a goal past Edmonton’s Niko­lai Khabibu­lin for his sec­ond goal of the sea­son. Goals are a bonus from the in­dus­tri­ous, work­like-a-dog Dau­gavins.

COLIN GREEN­ING: A-Of

all the Bing­ham­ton grads, none has had more op­por­tu­nity than the man his team­mates call the Cy­borg: a spot on the first line along­side cen­tre Ja­son Spezza and 17 min­utes per game of ice time on av­er­age, in­clud­ing five min­utes of PP time in Cal­gary. With five goals and four as­sists, Green­ing has taken his chance and run with it, although that goal in Edmonton ended a se­v­engame point­less drought dat­ing back to Oct. 30 ver­sus Toronto. Green­ing is mi­nus-8, tied with Da Costa for the team worst. But he has the mak­ings of a good NHL power for­ward, and a 3.95 grade point av­er­age from Cor­nell sug­gests a quick study. In fact, he’ll be so sore about an A- he prom­ises mom and dad an A+ next term.

PHO­TOS, JEAN LEVAC, THE OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN, (LEFT) CHRIS TROT­MAN, GETTY IM­AGES

A– COLIN GREEN­ING AND JARED COWEN

BRUCE BEN­NETT, GETTY IM­AGES WAYNE CUDDINGTON, THE OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN CHRIS MIKULA, THE OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN JEAN LEVAC, THE OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN JEAN LEVAC, THE OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN

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