Senators notebook: Tuck talk news to Zibanejad

Even though the National Hockey League’s jersey police are on the lookout for players who commit the unseemly crime of tucking their team shirts into their pants, it was news to Ottawa Senators centre Mika Zibanejad — at least before Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Senators notebook: Tuck talk news to Zibanejad
Mika Zibanejad is reflected in the glass as the Ottawa Senators practice at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, prior to Game 2 of the NHL's Eastern Conference semi-final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen)

Even though the National Hockey League’s jersey police are on the lookout for players who commit the unseemly crime of tucking their team shirts into their pants, it was news to Ottawa Senators centre Mika Zibanejad — at least before Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Oh, really? No, I hadn’t heard about that,” Zibanejad said, when told about the penalty Carolina Hurricanes winger Alex Semin received Wednesday for having his jersey tucked into his pants.

Zibanejad wears loose fitting pants and often dips down when he skates forward, meaning that his jersey becomes wedged in the pants during his shifts, exposing the back pad on his pants.

That has become a no-no in the NHL. Now that the league is adopting a strict “no tuck” standard, Zibanejad is in danger of being sent to the penalty box for what amounts to a wardrobe malfunction.

Players failing to meet the standard are first being given a warning, followed by a two-minute minor penalty. Persistent violations could land a player a 10-minute misconduct or a game misconduct.

Ultimately, Zibanejad may be forced to alter his equipment.

“The problem is that my pants are so big, that (the jersey) goes in when I skate, because I skate really low,” Zibanejad said. “I never tuck in my shirt. I start the game with it out and it comes in. It just goes in and tucks in by itself. If you notice, it’s always on the same side.”

It all seems a little bit silly, or “stupid,” in the estimation of Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin.

While Ovechkin’s decision to wear his jersey half tucked in is at least partly rooted in style — a style made famous by Wayne Gretzky — Zibanejad was skating away from any suggestions he was trying to follow in the footsteps of The Great One.

“Oh, god, no,” he said, with a laugh.

PUEMPEL WAITS FOR HIS CHANCE

While wingers Shane Prince and Andre Petersson were trying to turn heads Thursday against Toronto, yet another P prospect was watching, anxious for his shot to show himself.

That would be Matt Puempel, the club’s third first round draft choice in 2011 (24th overall), who has been somewhat forgotten so far in training camp.

Puempel was hampered by a “little back tweak” in early September, meaning he didn’t play during the club’s rookie tournament in London and he has yet to play in the pre-season.

But Puempel, 20, who has played a total of 11 regular season and three playoff games with Binghamton at the tail end of his final two junior seasons, understands the need to be patient.

“It’s everyone’s dream to stay here, but as I get more mature, you realize there is a development aspect to it,” he said. “(Binghamton coaches) Luke Richardson and Steve Stirling are pretty remarkable with what they’ve done in the past couple of years in helping players, but obviously Mr. MacLean, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Reeds are pretty good coaches themselves. I’m looking forward to being a pro.”

Like many former junior stars, Puempel knows he must improve his defensive play and he isn’t skating away from the challenge of trying to beat out the likes of Prince, Petersson, Cory Conacher, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman. Yet his development gave Senators management confidence that they could afford to trade away former prospect Stefan Noesen in the big summer trade which brought Bobby Ryan to Ottawa.

“I played with (Stephane) Da Costa and Stone in the (AHL) playoffs and that helped grow my game and I learned every day,” said Puempel, who scored two goals in three post-season games last spring. “It’s good for the organization in the long run to have competition at a young age. It makes everybody better. I don’t want to take days off. That shouldn’t be allowed anywhere.”

SAY, WHO USED TO SIT HERE?

Not only did Clarke MacArthur switch sides in the Battle of Ontario over the summer, he also inherited a rather significant spot in the Senators’ dressing room. MacArthur now hangs out in the locker stall formerly occupied by Daniel Alfredsson. “Yeah, I know, no pressure, eh?” he said Thursday morning … Speaking of Alfredsson, he was scratched from the Detroit Red Wings lineup Thursday due to a groin injury.

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