Rundblad still grinning about his first NHL goal

Even before he came to North America, David Rundbald already had some precious hockey souvenirs — sweaters from the two world junior championships he played in for his native Sweden, the puck from the first goal he scored in the Swedish Elite League, you get the idea.

David Rundblad celebrates his first NHL goal. (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

WINNIPEG — Even before he came to North America, David Rundbald already had some precious hockey souvenirs — sweaters from the two world junior championships he played in for his native Sweden, the puck from the first goal he scored in the Swedish Elite League, you get the idea.

But the puck he got on Sunday night when he scored his first NHL goal is now the most precious item on the shelf.

No contest.

This one is special because it’s the one I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid,” he said Tuesday morning. “It was sure a relief to finally score.”

With any luck, it will also be the goal that ignites his NHL season, which, to this point, has been one of stops and starts. Maybe more stops than starts.
In Sweden last year, Rundblad was the Elite League’s most celebrated defencemen. In Ottawa, he’s locked in a tug-of-war with Brian Lee for the No. 6 spot on defence and for playing time.

That has left both players just hoping to get into the lineup.

Rundblad has played 14 games and been scratched in nine. Lee has played 11 and been scratched in 12. For Tuesday’s game against the Jets, Rundblad was going to play No. 15 and Lee was going to sit for No. 13.

While it’s tough to offer a detailed progress report on a player who has been in and out of the lineup, head coach Paul MacLean says he can see signs that Rundblad is feeling more comfortable and gaining confidence.

“I think that was displayed the other night with the confidence he had after missing (the previous five games),” MacLean said. “Just because you’re not playing doesn’t mean you don’t learn about the league and what’s going on, so I think he’s used his time wisely.”

Like Rundblad, MacLean was hoping that first goal would serve as a catalyst to jump-start his play.

In anticipation that might be the case, MacLean teasingly altered his first power-play unit during Tuesday’s morning skate, putting Rundblad with Erik Karlsson on the points of the first unit, and moving Sergei Gonchar back to the second squad with Filip Kuba.

Later, MacLean wouldn’t tip his hand but anything that can ignite a sputtering power play would be welcome. The Senators have scored just one power-play goal in 20 attempts over the last five games.

“We don’t practise it unless we think it’s going to work,” said MacLean. “And sometimes we practise things to see if it’s going to work. They’re both (Rundblad and Karlsson) real good players and it gives us an opportunity to give the team a different look.”

Because Sunday’s game in Ottawa started at 5 p.m. — an 11 p.m. start in Sweden — Rundblad’s family and friends were able to stay up for it and see him score his first goal.

It’s tougher, he said, for them to watch a game that starts at 7:30 in Ottawa, which is 1:30 a.m. in Sweden, more than a little past everyone’s bedtime.

So Rundblad fielded a lot of texts and emails from family and friends after the game.

“It shows they care about me,” he laughed.

Now he just has to keep a grip on a lineup spot.

The Senators have never had any questions about his offensive ability. That’s demonstrated by MacLean’s confidence to try him on the power play with Karlsson.
But he does have to be better defensively. That’s not easy when you’ve come from a place where the game is played on Olympic-sized rinks and there’s not much hitting. But Rundblad is beginning to feel better about himself.

“It was tough when I (was scratched for five games in a row), because you want to be playing,” he said. “But my confidence is getting higher with every game I play.
“I’m just trying to play my game and keep my head up.”

Follow Allen Panzeri on Twitter @allenpanzeri

David Rundblad celebrates his first NHL goal ( Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

David Rundblad celebrates his first NHL goal (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

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