Welcome back, Andre Petersson

Andre Petersson practises in Ottawa, April 4, 2011. Photo by Julie Oliver, Ottawa Citizen.

LONDON, Ontario — Maybe, just maybe, Andre Petersson is going to get another crack at the National Hockey League.

So much has happened – and not a lot of it positive – since the excitement of the 2008 NHL entry draft in Ottawa. There were some high expectations back then, when Petersson’s good friend Erik Karlsson – the Senators first round selection of the draft – personally called Petersson from the Senators draft table, telling him he was the club’s fourth round choice, 109th overall.

Yet over the past two seasons, Petersson, a highly-skilled 5-9, 179-pound right winger, has slipped further and further down the depth chart. Part of it is due to injuries – he scored only two goals and three assists in played only 17 games with Binghamton last season due to season-ending hip surgery – but part of it was due to his attitude.

By his own admission, Petersson wasn’t fully committed to hockey. At one point, he offered up a bleak assessment of Binghamton as a city in an interview with a Swedish reporter, which naturally didn’t go over well in upstate New York or in the upper offices of Senators management.

In fact, the Senators were prepared to cut him loose altogether – he has one year remaining on his entry level contract – before Petersson made an impassioned plea for the organization to give him another chance to showcase himself. A perfect opportunity presented itself when Petersson was asked to be a last-minute replacement for the injured Jarrod Maidens at the club’s rookie tournament here.

If his performance in Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks is any indication, Petersson might just work himself back into the Senators’ good books. He scored a goal and an assist – a pretty feed to Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a five-on-3 power play – rifled another off the crossbar and was stopped on a breakaway. He was around the net all night and he put the finishing touches on his game by scoring in the shootout.

“I feel that this is a really good chance for me and I really wanted to come in here and play well,” said Petersson, who was called up from Binghamton to play a single game for the Senators during the 2011-12 season. “My last game was December last year and I feel like this is a really good opportunity for me to get into it.”

And by getting into it, Petersson means really getting into it.

“I’ve got to be more professional,” he says. “I’ve got to do all the right things and all that. I have to be 100 per cent focussed on hockey. Not anything else come first. Hockey is number one priority right now. As I see it now, it’s a fresh start for me and I want to look forward, starting from square one this year. I have to have my best year as a player and show all the people that are interested in the Ottawa Senators and the guys upstairs (the coaches and management) that I’m ready to go.”

At this point, though, the Senators are swimming with young prospects on both wings, including Mark Stone, Shane Prince, Matt Puempel, Mike Hoffman, Cory Conacher and 2013 first round draft pick Curtis Lazar, who scored the winning goal in the shootout Saturday. Accordingly, Petersson needs to turn more than a few heads to get another big-league look.

“I know the situation,” Petersson said, when asked about the litany of talented wingers he’s sharing a dressing room with this weekend. “I feel like it’s all up to me. I’ve got to show what I can do. If that’s good enough, hopefully, they’ll give me an opportunity.”

Petersson will be in the Senators training camp next week and says he’ll probably be living with Karlsson for as long as the Senators choose to keep him in Ottawa. As for long-term living arrangements in Ottawa, Petersson knows it will only happen if he does it the old fashioned way. He will have to earn it.

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