All eyes on Duch­ene as he makes his Sens de­but in Swe­den

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - SPORTS - BRUCE GAR­RIOCH POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

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. bgar­rioch@post­media.com

JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Se­na­tors cen­tre Matt Duch­ene in Ot­tawa on Mon­day.

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