TORONTO — Jim O’Brien is in a tough fight to hold on to his spot with the Ottawa Senators, but he’s not changing his attitude or his style on the ice.
The way he sees it, if you do the right things – in his case, a straight away banging game which involves being a nuisance around opponents nets — you’ll eventually be rewarded.
“They’ve told me how they want me to play and that’s how I’m going to get out there,” said O’Brien, who broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period in Tuesday’s 3-2 exhibition win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
The puck actually didn’t hit his stick at all. The cross-crease pass from Corey Cowick banked off his skate and past Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer.
In O’Brien’s mind, it’s as pretty as any goal.
“We talk about playing in our structure and playing the right way, pass, pass, stop at the net,” he said. “It might look like lucky bounces, but those are things we practice all the time. Getting to the net. It’s about repetition and habits. It’s something every day we talk about. You go there, you stop and good things happen. That’s a good example of it.”
At this point, the most likely scenario for O’Brien is that he’s not on the club’s 23-man roster when training camp breaks. Yet in order to assign him to Binghamton of the American Hockey League, O’Brien must clear waivers first, making him available to the NHL’s other 29 teams.
WHAT THEY SAID, WHAT THEY DID: “For me, it’s his maturity and his fitness level. He’s stronger, which makes him quicker. He’s determined, he has a great skill level and a mind for game. In the defensive zone, he won a couple of huge puck battles, which is something he didn’t do two years ago,” Senators coach Paul MacLean, describing Stephane Da Costa, who once again came up empty on the scoresheet, despite his three shots on goal and his several set-ups for Andre Petersson.