Not even a six-goal month of November has made Clarke MacArthur forget about his early scoring drought with the Senators.
“Oh yeah, it’s still right there in the back of my mind,” MacArthur says. “What was that, 13 or 14? It was a tough start. That’s how it goes. I stuck with it. With good linemates, you keep getting the puck. I knew it would start coming”
Actually, it was only the first 11 games in which the free agent winger failed to score, then he sat out the team’s 12th game because of an injury. Then he turned the page on the month of November, scoring a goal in a Nov. 1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders. In 12 games this month, MacArthur has six goals and six assists, jumping into fifth place among Ottawa scorers with 17 points.
MacArthur scored a pair of goals in Ottawa’s 4-2 victory over the Red Wings on Saturday.
So much for him flying under the radar.
On July 5, when captain Daniel Alfredsson left for Detroit as a free agent and winger Bobby Ryan came to Ottawa in a blockbuster trade, MacArthur was the forgotten man, a bit of an afterthought. Today, he’s an integral part of the Senators most productive line, with Ryan (11 goals, 11 assists) and centre Kyle Turris, who has six goals and 14 assists.
MacArthur, a former Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres forward, with 230 points in 426 career NHL games, instantly fit in with Turris and Ryan.
“It’s been good,” MacArthur says. “Turry is a real smart player. And Bobby Ryan, everybody knows what he can do. He’s real dangerous in the offensive zone. We’ve been working off each other so far, it’s still early, only 20-some games, but we communicate pretty well on the ice.”
Head coach Paul MacLean says the club knew what to expect from the 28-year-old from Lloydminster, Ab.
“We knew Clarke was a very consistent player, a 400-game player in the league, knows how to play, we knew he had some skill and was really a smart player,” MacLean said.
“We didn’t put a number on it and say this is what he’s supposed to do and this is what he’s going to be. But since he’s been here he’s been very consistent, day in and day out. His practice, his work ethic is something we like.
“He’s been a really good signing for our group.”
While the Senators have struggled with consistency, no one can point to the changes at forward, with Ryan and MacArthur incoming and Alfredsson leaving, and say the new guys haven’t produced.
With 58 games remaining, Ryan has already matched his goal total with the Ducks last season in a 48-game schedule.
“MacArthur and Bobby Ryan,” MacLean says, “have both been outstanding for us.”
SMITH FINDS NICHE
In Ottawa’s victory over the Red Wings, the Senators third line set the tone by pounding Detroit players at every opportunity.
As a reward, Chris Neil, Zack Smith and their new linemate, Cory Conacher all recorded a point. Neil’s goal took a few good bounces before getting past goaltender Jimmy Howard.
“Our line is at its best when we’re physical,” Smith says. :And then we get a little more room out there to work with the puck . . . and if we’re finishing checks, it can back them up for the other lines.”
Smith is averaging more than 15 minutes per game for the Senators, a career-high time on ice that reflects his role shadowing some of the league’s top offensive lines.
“You take pride in that,” Smith says. “It tells you the coaches have a lot of faith in you to play you against the top players. There’s obviously some great players, great lines in the league.”
Smith is still trying to work his way back onto the penalty killing units – MacLean often uses offensive players there to provide a shorthanded scoring threat – but No. 15′s fine season is not defined by his three goals and two assists. He has often been referred to as Ottawa’s most consistent forward, using to skating to get on opposing defences and playing the body.
“I want to be the defensive player, the guy who’s on the ice the last two minutes to defend a goal,” Smith says. “If I want to be one of the top guys in the league, that’s the area I have to be solid in.”
Conacher is a welcome addition to their line, Smith says.
“He’s like a little water bug out there, he buzzes around. He’s a bit of pest, too, so it’s maybe lucky for him he’s with me and Neil.”
Neil and Smith have never been afraid to drop the gloves, so the 5-8 Conacher is well insulated.
‘SHAME’ FUL WESTGARTH
The Senators had a full day off on Monday, so we wait until Tuesday for an update on defenceman Mark Borowiecki, who suffered a neck strain when he was slammed into the boards by the Hurricanes’ Kevin Westgarth in the first period on Sunday. Borowiecki had fallen and was just getting to his feet when Westgarth rammed him from behind. Borowiecki had to be helped to the dressing room and did not return to the game.
Though Westgarth only received a two-minute minor for boarding, he can expect a longer sentence – a suspension – when he visits the NHL office Tuesday for a hearing.
“I thought it showed a total lack of respect for a fellow player that was obviously in a vulnerable position and they should feel shame,” MacLean said. “Player 8 should feel shame.”