Ceci making himself at home in Ottawa

Cody Ceci finally came down to earth a little bit on Friday the 13th.

Ceci making himself at home in Ottawa
Cody Ceci of the Ottawa Senators during morning practice at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, December 13 2013. (Jean Levac/Ottawa Citizen)

Cody Ceci finally came down to earth a little bit on Friday the 13th.

There he was, at practice with Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre for the first time, the day after making his impressive NHL debut with his hometown team Thursday.

Rushed into the lineup on an emergency basis after fellow defenceman Marc Methot came down with the flu, Ceci said he had “adrenalin on his side” as he took his spot alongside veteran Chris Phillips.

Ceci ended up playing 20:40 — including 2:44 on the power play and 3:32 short-handed — registered a shot on goal and finished with a plus/minus rating of plus-2 in the Senators’ 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

“Just looking down during the national anthems, looking at the Senators logo (on his sweater) was pretty cool for me and I was thinking this is a regular season game and I’m actually here,” he said.

Now that he has had some time to think about it all, Ceci says it probably helped that he didn’t have much time to worry about it beforehand.

When he heard the Senators needed him Thursday morning, he jumped in his car and drove the four hours from the club’s American Hockey League team in Binghamton, N.Y., to get here before game time. He was in such a hurry, he didn’t even stop to call his parents.

“I definitely didn’t have a lot of time to get nervous,” Ceci said following Friday’s workout. “I drove up and as soon as I got here, I only had an hour or so (before pre-game preparations). I tried to nap, but it wasn’t really long enough to nap, so I just came to the rink.

“I didn’t have a whole day or week to think about it. I just came up and played. And we had a game the night before (in Binghamton), so I just came up and did the best I possibly could.”

As first impressions go, Ceci couldn’t have done much more to leave his mark. He quickly and effectively moved the puck from the Senators’ end, which has been a glaring weakness for Ottawa defencemen this season. He joined the offensive attack several times. He kept the puck inside the blue line on the play that led directly to Zack Smith’s game-winning goal. Ceci was also on the ice to kill off a penalty in the final two minutes of the game. He came within a few feet of finishing off his dream night with a goal, just missing an empty net.

“The most nerve-racking part was probably the last two minutes, when we were (short-handed) and I got on the ice … I was happy I got the opportunity and they trusted me in that situation,” he said. “At first, I wasn’t even really trying to shoot at the net, but then it started curling and thought it had a chance. I was starting to smile a bit. It would have been cool to top off my first NHL game with that.”

Depending on the Senators’ injury situation, he could get a second chance Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. The status of Methot, who was still under the weather, won’t be known until game time. Phillips also took a shot off the foot at practice Friday, leaving some doubt about whether he’ll be able to play. Jared Cowen will be serving the second game of his two-game suspension.

Senators coach Paul MacLean says the team will show “no hesitation” in using Ceci if necessary.

“I thought Cody, for his first game in the NHL, had a very good game,” said MacLean.

Ceci isn’t getting ahead of himself, but naturally he wants to stay at home for as long as possible.

“I’m happy I’m still here and I’ll work hard to stay as long as I can,” he said.

If Ceci plays Saturday against Los Angeles, he’ll also be going head-to-head with his former Ottawa 67’s teammate Tyler Toffoli.

“My first AHL game was actually against (Toffoli),” he said. “So I hope I get a chance to play against him for a second time. It’s always cool to see a familiar face on the other team.”

Ceci has two goals and 15 assists in 24 games with Binghamton this season.

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