Healthy scratch Conacher staying positive through ups and downs

Mark Stone’s gain was Cory Conacher’s loss.

Mark Stone’s gain was Cory Conacher’s loss.
As Stone made his 2013 playoff debut for the Ottawa Senators in Game 4 Wednesday, the odd man out was fellow rookie Cory Conacher.
Conacher played only 13:22 in the Senators 2-1 double overtime victory in Game 3, had no shots on goal and turned the puck over several times.
Yet for all the disappointment that came with coach Paul MacLean’s decision, Conacher was saying all the right things.
“It’s a learning curve,” Conacher said. “I’m young, I’m trying to do whatever I can to help the team win. The coach knows very well who to play and when to play them and he has been doing that for years and he has been very successful at it. You have to trust what he does. He’s a loyal guy. He has a plan to everything he does. I’m fine with watching a little bit and learning from some of the veterans, knowing what to do when I go out on the ice.”
Conacher has been an intriguing study during the playoffs. He was in the lineup to start the playoffs and was a healthy scratch in Game 2 against Montreal. After a shaky Game 4 against Montreal, MacLean threw him on the ice in the final minute and Conacher scored the game-tying goal en route to a 3-2 overtime win. Conacher followed up with a pair of goals in the series-clinching 6-1 win in Game 5.
Now, after an unsatisfactory performance in Game 3 against Pittsburgh, he was watching from above again.
Somewhere along the line, Conacher will get another chance to make his mark.

WHAT NEXT FOR LATENDRESSE?

While the Senators have a vested interest in the future of Conacher – he has a $925,000 contract for the 2013-14 season – the clock may be running out for Guillaume Latendresse.
Latendresse, who turns 26 on Friday, received a second chance to make a playoff impression when MacLean inserted him into the lineup for Game 2 in Pittsburgh. When Spezza returned for Game 3, however, Latendresse was back on the sidelines.
His one-year deal with the Senators expires June 30. Considering the amount of young forward talent within the Senators’ organization – including both Conacher and Mark Stone — the Senators aren’t likely to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent.

SIDNEY WHO?

If Sidney Crosby didn’t know who Jean-Gabriel Pageau was before the Eastern Conference semifinal series began, he does now. Pageau, who has now played as many NHL playoff games as regular season games – nine – played a major role in keeping Crosby off the scoresheet during Sunday’s marathon.
“I need to forget I’m playing against Crosby, and (Evgeni) Malkin at times, and just give everything I’ve got and not have any regrets at the end of my shift,” Pageau said before Wednesday’s game.
“But I’m not alone against him. My linemates (Colin Greeening and Erik Condra) are real good. We have to play hard on him or he’s going to do whatever he wants.”
Pageau went into Wednesday’s game with four points, two assists and a plus seven plus-minus rating, tied with Chris Phillips as the club’s playoff leaders. While Greening received his share of fame for the double overtime game winner Sunday, Condra has quietly delivered a solid post-season performance. Heading into Game 4, he had one goal and six assists and is MacLean’s first choice at forward to kill off Penguins power plays.

THE EXPERIENCE FACTOR

So, when the Senators make a change at forward, it’s from one rookie (Conacher) to another (Stone). When the Penguins make a change, it’s from a guy who has played 850 NHL regular season games and 87 playoff games (Brenden Morrow) to another who has played in 579 regular season games and 31 playoff games (Jussi Jokinen). Jokinen returned after being a healthy scratch for the Penguins previous five playoff games. “I haven’t sat out too many games in my career, so it’s not an easy situation,” said Jokinen, acquired off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes late in the regular season. “There are lots of great players on this hockey team and right now we’ve got 16 forwards and nine defencemen and we’re all pretty good NHL players.”

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