All eyes on Duchene as he makes his Sens debut in Sweden
STOCKHOLM — The Ottawa Senators smiled for the cameras as they donned their team jerseys before a skate that lasted over an hour Thursday.
Most noticeable in the club’s red Senators’ sweater was newly-acquired centre Matt Duchene who will make his debut against his former Colorado Avalanche teammates Friday, after being traded to Ottawa on Sunday, at 2 p.m. EST in Game 1 of the NHL’s Global Series that gets under way at the Ericsson Globe.
There will be no shortage of attention on the Swedish players — including Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson, Fredrik Claesson and Johnny Oduya along with Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog — but many eyes will be on Duchene as he starts on a line with Mike Hoffman to his left and Zack Smith to his right.
Yes, Duchene is comfortable in his new surroundings, but he admitted Thursday he’ll be nervous facing the Avs and pulling on the No. 95 jersey for the picture before practice didn’t quite feel right just yet.
“Even (Thursday) for the team picture it was different,” Duchene said. “I’ve played on different teams internationally in my career and those are different groups and different uniform so it’s not totally foreign. It’s not like that’s the only team I’ve played on for the last years.
“But, yeah, looking across and seeing the jersey I used to wear it will be a little bit of an adjustment but I think once the puck drops it’ll be fine.”
As the skate wrapped up, it was noted to Duchene by a reporter that he spent a lot of time chatting with coach Guy Boucher before leaving the ice.
“We were talking about a lot of things in general,” Duchene said. “He and I go back a little bit. We worked together at the under-18’s in Russia and we had a really good relationship. We talked a lot about hockey and different things. I’m older than I was then but I expect some of that relationship to carry over where there’s times that we pick each other’s brains and chat about stuff.
“That’s kind of what that was. We talked a little bit about (Friday). He was giving me some good advice. I’m excited. It will be a little nervewracking. I’ll have butterflies for sure. I’m just get started with this team and start my new chapter.”
There’s no question the Swedish players have been a lot of attention but so has Duchene since the club arrived here and he’s been facing questions daily. He spent a good 10 minutes with a large group of reporters after leaving the ice.
“It comes with the territory of the situation,” Duchene said. “I’m just trying to be one of the guys in here and not talking about it other than maybe with (the media) or privately with the coaches.
“For me, it’s about fitting into my new environment and being one of the guys. I don’t want to stand out in any way. That’s important for me right now. It’s been something that the guys have really taken in stride and it hasn’t been a distraction which I’ve been happy about.”
Winger Alex Burrows has been through this before after facing the Vancouver Canucks last month for the first time since being dealt to Ottawa.
“It’s going to be weird for sure,” Burrows said. “First off it’s a Global Series match against a team he played (with) for a long time and he’s probably got some really good friends on that team. So far he’s been fitting in really nice. He’s been spending some quality time with the boys on the road.
“It’s a good time for to be around the boys this much early on.”
Like everybody else, Duchene just wants to get going here. The Senators haven’t played since a 5-4 loss last Saturday afternoon to the Vegas Golden Knights and they’ve had the opportunity to find out what the city has to offer while trying to adjust to the six-hour time difference.
That’s been the most difficult aspect to overcome for all the parties involved.
“I don’t think we’ve been here very long but it’s going to be exciting to play and I think everybody is feeling the same way,” said Karlsson. “We’re getting accustomed (to the time change) and I think we’ll feel a little bit (Friday) than we did (Thursday).
“It’s always tough to fly that far. A six-hour time difference is never easy but it’s the same for everyone. We all did the same thing. It’s going to be an even playing field out there and we’ve got to find a way to feel the best we can.”
One noticeable change Boucher made in practice Thursday was with his defensive pairings and it looks like Karlsson may start with Claesson.
“I’ve played with him before. He’s a good player, a young player and he’s dedicated to playing hard and he’s someone I feel like I have good chemistry with. Whoever I end up playing with I feel like it’s working out well,” Karlsson said.
The time has come to drop the puck in Stockholm and the talk will finally turn to action for the Senators. email@example.com
Senators centre Matt Duchene in Ottawa on Monday.