Stephane Da Costa has plenty of mixed emotions following the Ottawa Senators decision to send Mika Zibanejad back to Sweden for the rest of the season.
Da Costa has at least temporarily inherited Zibanejad’s second line centre spot, starting Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers between Nick Foligno and Daniel Alfredsson. The news Thursday that Peter Regin will be out from six to eight weeks while rehabilitating his left shoulder also means that the opportunity could last for awhile.
At the same time, Da Costa was feeling the vacancy in the locker stall beside him. As fellow rookies, Da Costa and Zibanejad have been close, living in the same hotel since late in the summer, eating together and sharing rides to the rink and around town.
“It’s tough because I’ve been hanging around with him for about two and a half months,” Da Costa said before Thursday’s game. “It gives me a good chance to play, but I also lose a friend, for a year. It’s kind of tough. It’s my last year of my contract, so we’ll see. Next year, I hope I’m here again, and play with him again.”
While Da Costa’s numbers have been far from impressive – one goal, no assists and a glaring minus 7 in nine games before Thursday – the Senators don’t have many other options. Da Costa has the offensive skill to play on a top forward line. It’s his play without the puck which needs improvement.
“The big thing with Stephane has been the defensive part of the game,” said coach Paul MacLean. “If you have vision with the puck, you should have vision without the puck. We’re just trying to make sure that he uses his vision in the whole rink.”
Da Costa is well aware of his defensive shortcomings and says he’s aiming “to move his feet more” to put himself into better position in his own end and in the neutral zone.
If he doesn’t succeed in the position, the next best option could be to move Foligno from left wing to centre, his natural position. Foligno says he would welcome such a move, but he insists he’s not getting carried away with line combinations.
“I’m just looking at playing well,” said Foligno. “I feel I have. Maybe the production hasn’t been there (one goal, one assist in nine games before Thursday’s game), but I’m pretty confident in the way I have been playing. I’m not too worried about that. In the past, I got too hung up on that and maybe that’s what has been my demise, putting too much pressure on myself. I want to score and get points offensively, but I think I’ve done a lot of good things and hopefully my teammates feel that way, as well.”
While Regin could be out for as long as two months, it would have been far longer if he had chosen to have surgery on his left shoulder. Regin consulted with additional doctors before making the decision. He has a history of left shoulder issues and the latest setback came early in the club’s 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 20.