SENS DE­FENCE­MAN READY TO SEIZE HIS OP­POR­TU­NITY

Af­ter sit­ting in press box for first four games, Ben Harpur to make sea­son de­but

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - DON BREN­NAN dbren­nan@post­media.com

Los­ing three play­ers at once cre­ates a rather large hole in the lineup, and of his op­tions to fill it, Sen­a­tors coach Guy Boucher was re­veal­ing only one thing on Fri­day: They will in­clude Big Ben Harpur.

Against the “heavy” Los An­ge­les Kings, how­ever, the 6-6, 222-pound de­fence­man is not nec­es­sar­ily be­ing added for his size, but just to be him­self. And that’s not a brute. To back­track, the Sen­a­tors have placed on in­jured re­serve left-wingers Ryan Dzin­gel (mus­cle in­jury) and Alex For­men­ton (con­cus­sion), as well as de­fence­man Cody Ceci (two undis­closed in­juries).

GM Pierre Do­rion is hope­ful all three, plus in­jured for­ward Max McCormick, will be ready to re­turn against the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens on Oct. 20, which means they would miss just two games.

In the mean­time, for­ward Nick Paul and de­fence­man Chris­tian Jaros have been re­called from the AHL’s Belleville Sen­a­tors. Harpur and cen­tre Paul Carey were al­ready with Ot­tawa as ex­tras, but Boucher would only con­firm the for­mer will play Satur­day, as it sounds like he’s lean­ing to­ward an 11-for­ward, seven-de­fence­men align­ment.

“We still have to make de­ci­sions,” he said.

Boucher had al­ready de­cided to give this game to Harpur, who de­spite hav­ing a one-way con­tract, was beat out of a job at camp by Max La­joie. While the Sen­a­tors have urged the 23-yearold friendly gi­ant to be­come more of a phys­i­cal force in the past, Boucher is no longer push­ing him to be pushy.

“I’ve learned over time that some­times you want play­ers to be some­thing and they’ve got to be what they are, too,” Boucher said. “What we’re ask­ing of Ben, re­ally for me, is yeah, there’s the phys­i­cal side of the game, like ev­ery other player. Be­cause he’s that big, you’d want the guy to be a big, hard ham­mer out there. But that’s not the type of player he is. He’s a solid per­son that can play a good de­fen­sive game, but he’s ac­tu­ally good with the puck. And he likes to play with the puck and he likes to make plays, and all that. And that’s good.

“From him, what we need is the con­sis­tency in his game. He’s looked re­ally good at some mo­ments, ter­rific, then it slips away for five min­utes and it comes back later. That’s where he’s got to grow. Not be­cause he hasn’t shown what he needs to be in the NHL. He has shown that. But he has to dou­ble and triple those mo­ments where he looks like that, and make it con­sis­tent.”

Af­ter three sea­sons in the Sen­a­tors’ sys­tem, in­clud­ing 52 games for Ot­tawa, Harpur fi­nally landed the deal that would pay him NHL money no mat­ter where he played this sea­son. The fact that he did not have a strong camp and La­joie sur­pris­ingly el­e­vated his own pro­gres­sion put Harpur in the press box for the first four games.

“It’s tough, but I think it was im­por­tant for me to stay pos­i­tive,” said Harpur, who drew reg­u­lar min­utes in nine games dur­ing the Sen­a­tors’ play­off run two springs ago.

“Be­ing around the guys and still be­ing pos­i­tive and up­beat, and still putting a smile on your face, and not drag­ging any­one down ... I’ve been try­ing to do that.”

He’d had to do more. With the Sen­a­tors hav­ing won only one of their first four games, Boucher wasn’t go­ing to ac­ti­vate any­body just for be­ing a nice guy.

“When you’re not play­ing, prac­tice is the best op­por­tu­nity to show that you’re ready,” Harpur said. “Coaches talked to me dur­ing that process and made sure I was work­ing hard.”

Mean­while, the rash of in­juries at­tacks the Sen­a­tors in ten­der spots. Dzin­gel, the team coleader in goals last sea­son, has a cou­ple plus a pair of as­sists to date while mostly deal­ing with an ag­gra­va­tion.

“We’ve been manag­ing it as best we could,” Boucher said, “but right now we feel it’s im­por­tant to get rid of it.”

For­men­ton, who will not be go­ing back to ju­nior if he keeps play­ing like he did in the last two games, suf­fered a con­cus­sion while show­ing off his grit against the Philadel­phia Fly­ers.

“He’s do­ing very well to­day,” said Do­rion, who was sur­prised Ceci man­aged to main­tain his team lead in ice time against the Fly­ers. “He’s def­i­nitely the tough­est per­son from Or­léans (which is also where Do­rion is from), to play through the pain he played through last game.”

The Kings come to town with a 2-1-1 record and fresh off spoil­ing the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens’ home opener with a 3-0 vic­tory on Thurs­day.

“They’re heavy, they’re hard, they’re struc­tured,” said Sen­a­tors winger Mikkel Boed­ker, who saw plenty of the Kings dur­ing his 10 years in the Western Con­fer­ence. “So it’s a good op­por­tu­nity and it’s a good chal­lenge for us.

“We have a lot of fallen soldiers around here right now, but that’s the way it goes. We’ve got to have a next-man-up men­tal­ity.”

JAROS EX­PECTED TO BE A BIG HIT WITH SENS

The thought of play­ing his first NHL game of the sea­son against a team with the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing big and tough ac­tu­ally pleases Chris­tian Jaros to no end.

“I like to play against phys­i­cal guys,” said the 22-year old, who was the Sen­a­tors’ last train­ing camp cut. “It’s kind of my style, how I play. So I’m look­ing for­ward to it.”

Jaros says he used the de­mo­tion to Belleville as mo­ti­va­tion to work harder. In his one game with the B-Sens, on the road in Utica, he was the team’s best de­fence­man. Asked if he racked up any op­pos­ing for­wards, Jaros smiled.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I give some hits, they give me some hits. So it was like both. It was very phys­i­cal hockey. Fun to play.”

Coach Guy Boucher is a Jaros fan.

“We have to make de­ci­sions, but let’s say it like it is: He was out­stand­ing at camp,” Boucher said.

“In the end, it be­came a de­ci­sion be­tween him and (Max) La­joie ... be­tween out­stand­ing and out­stand­ing. Pick your ... I won’t say poi­son ... pick your Christ­mas present. I think we made a good choice, but I still be­lieve this guy (Jaros) is quite a player.”

JEAN LEVAC

Ben Harpur is ex­pected to be in the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors’ lineup for the first time this sea­son Satur­day.

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