Grant relishing penalty killing role

On the short drive back from practice at the Bell Sensplex to the Canadian Tire Centre following practice Monday, Derek Grant and Mark Borowiecki had a realistic discussion about how they can make their marks in the National Hockey League.

On the short drive back from practice at the Bell Sensplex to the Canadian Tire Centre following practice Monday, Derek Grant and Mark Borowiecki had a realistic discussion about how they can make their marks in the National Hockey League.

“Just kind of carving out a role for yourself up in this league,” said Borowiecki. “Not everybody is going to be a top two defenceman or a top three forward. That’s just the nature of this game. The guys are so good up here. You’ve got to find something that can be your go-to thing and let the coaches in the organization know that you’re going to be reliable in that role.”

While Borowiecki has added a much needed physical tone to the defence, hitting hard and fighting when necessary, Grant is fulfilling a vital role killing penalties and serving as a steady, reliable fourth line centre.

The Senators rank fifth in the NHL in penalty killing (86.1 per cent) and our second best on home ice (94.9 per cent) and it was the work of their shorthanded units in the third period Saturday which allowed them to escape the Canadian Tire Centre with a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.

Grant was in the middle of it all, including the pivotal kill of a 5-on-3 disadvantage, blocking a couple of shots.

“Every game you feel a little more comfortable and I’m trying to earn the coach’s trust,” said Grant, who leads the team with a 56.7 per cent faceoff percentage and has one assist in 10 games. “I think I’m doing that and obviously penalty killing is one of the strongest aspects of my game and I’m taking pride in it.”

Grant, 23, registered big offensive numbers with Langley in the BCHL and with Michigan State, but when he turned pro, he recognized that the minor leagues are full of countless other players with similar credentials.

“My first year of pro (2010-11), I realized that if I can settle into this defensive role, it probably gives me the best chance. I did a lot of work with Luke (Richardson, Binghamton coach) last year.”

Grant received a five-game taste of the NHL last season, but Senators coach Paul MacLean says Grant was in awe of the big-league environment in his first tour of NHL duty.

“He stopped looking for autographs when he was out on the ice, that certainly helps,” MacLean joked, when asked about the different from then to now. “He’s actually out on the ice, playing the game now. Last year when he came up, he was looking around and saying ‘I’m here at the Air Canada Centre or I’m here at the ‘Bell Centre’

“I’m not trying to be unfair to him, but as a young player, that’s going to happen to you. You look around, you see who you are playing against and you get tentative and don’t play. Now he comes up and just plays. He plays like he did in Binghamton. He wins faceoffs. He blocks shots. He has done a good job penalty killing. He’s just playing, not looking at anybody and saying can I have your stick after the game or any of that stuff.”

TOUGH LOVE FROM MACLEAN: The Senators coach believes that he’s on the same page with Erik Karlsson when it comes to how much ice time the star defenceman receives. “Erik and I have had brief conversations about that,” MacLean said Monday, when asked about the reduction in Karlsson’s ice time after he gave up the puck leading to Florida’s first goal Saturday. “I think he understands that the best players play. When he’s one of the best players, he plays all the time.”

CONDRA SKATES, BUT REMAINS ON INJURY LIST: Winger Erik Condra, who has missed the past four games with a leg injury, was on the ice at the start of Senators practice Monday, but didn’t stay around for the entire hour….At practice Monday, the lines looked like this: Clarke MacArthur-Kyle Turris-Bobby Ryan; Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Cory Conacher; Colin Greening-Zack Smith-Chris Neil; Matt Kassian-Derek Grant-Mika Zibanejad. MacLean said he had yet to decide on whether either Joe Corvo or Eric Gryba would return on defence against Philadelphia…Binghamton centre Stephane Da Costa was named AHL player of the week Monday after registering two goals and five assists in three games.

Tags: , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment