Numbers at lockout skate dwindling; Regin and Michalek on way to Europe?

Numbers at lockout skate dwindling; Regin and Michalek on way to Europe?

As Chris Kelly left the ice at the Bell Sensplex with his fellow locked out players late Tuesday morning, he couldn’t resist joking with the media on hand.

“You guys want to bring your skates tomorrow?” said Kelly, the former Senators and current Boston Bruins centre. “We could use a few more bodies.”

That won’t be happening, but it was easy to see where Kelly was coming from. The count for the informal workout Tuesday was nine, not including the two pick-up goaltenders who filled the nets. And the numbers only figure to get smaller from here.

Once Peter Regin clears some taxation issues, he will be headed back to his hometown of Herning, Denmark, where he hasn’t played since the lockout in 2004-05.

Now that Milan Michalek has fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle – first reported by the Citizen — he has joined the ranks of those locked out. Michalek is expected to make his way back to his former Czech League team Budejovice, where he hasn’t played since 2002-03.

Sergei Gonchar (Russia), Kaspars Daugavins (Russia), Jason Spezza (Switzerland), Erik Karlsson (Finland) and Kyle Turris (Finland) have already made the jump overseas.

There is also some talk of a few Ottawa-area Senators players joining in on the series of no-contact exhibition games that Quebec-based NHL players are playing throughout the province. Left winger Guillaume Latendresse, signed as a free agent by the Senators in July, has already played in the charity games.

While representatives for the NHL and the players are expected to meet again in New York Wednesday and Thursday, the league has already cancelled the opening two weeks of the regular season, which was originally scheduled to begin on Thursday. For all the talk, the art of compromise has so far escaped both sides.

At this point, Regin will take any form of competitive hockey to stay fresh. After undergoing a pair of left shoulder surgeries and been limited to only 65 games over the past two seasons, Regin is anxious to start playing again.

“It’s all good guys and we’re having fun while we’re here,” Regin said of the informal skates. “But training camp is usually finished right now and this is the time when you get really excited to play games. When you’re walking outside and seeing all the trees…usually when they’re changing colours, it means we’re playing games. So it’s a weird feeling.”

Regin originally expected to be in Denmark by now, but tax residency complications have delayed his signing. He’s hoping everything is cleared up this week so he can join the Herning Blue Fox, the defending Danish champions.

“The Swedish and Finnish League is better for sure and I would say the Danish League is like the East Coast League level,” he said. “It’s a different kind of hockey. There are lot of young guys with a lot of skill. There’s no fighting, but it’s competitive, with a lot of good players.”

The Blue Fox play out of a 4,200-seat arena, but Regin says the team averages about 1,500 fans per game.

“Hopefully, there will be a few more people in the stands, at least for the first few games,” he said. “Hopefully, if they get 500 more fans per game while I’m there, it will work out for everybody.”

Michalek, meanwhile, is no longer caught in the middle of the sides in the lockout. After undergoing surgery last month, he was under the care and watchful eyes of Senators doctors and training staff during rehabilitation. After skating with locked out players, he went back to Scotiabank Place for treatments. If he had not recovered from the injury, the Senators would be paying him his salary once the regular season began.

Now, however, he’s in the same boat as the rest of his teammates: looking for a place to play while waiting for a resolution in the lockout.

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