Zibanejad ready to play, but will the Senators put him in?

The mystery surrounding Mika Zibanejad continues. The Ottawa Senators’ first round draft choice in 2011 made a surprise appearance at the club’s practice Monday afternoon and he could be in the lineup Tuesday against the Washington Capitals, but coach Paul MacLean says there are no guarantees.

Mika Zibanejad skates a drill as the Ottawa Senators practice at Scotiabank Place, Monday January 28, 2013.

The mystery surrounding Mika Zibanejad continues.

The Ottawa Senators’ first round draft choice in 2011 made a surprise appearance at the club’s practice Monday afternoon and he could be in the lineup Tuesday against the Washington Capitals, but coach Paul MacLean says there are no guarantees.

Zibanejad, who is finally tasting some success with Binghamton of the American Hockey League following a season which started slow due an odd array of ailments — whiplash, impacted wisdom teeth, the flu – received a call-up Monday, with the AHL on its all-star break.

“We have an opportunity to bring him in and he has played well since he has got healthy down there,” said MacLean. “We’ll decide if we want to play him in a game.”

Zibanejad, 19, has scored only four goals and seven assists in 23 games with Binghamton, but that’s somewhat misleading. In the early going, he didn’t show much of anything, but after returning from a month-long absence to deal with the above issues – at one point, there was speculation he had suffered a concussion – he has been a much improved player. During one stretch in the middle of January, he scored in three straight games and general manager Bryan Murray says “he’s sort of the guy up front” in Binghamton. He has played both centre and left wing in Binghamton.

“I haven’t got the chance to talk to the coach yet, but if tells me to play, I’m ready,” said Zibanejad, who was in Ottawa to visit his girlfriend during the All-Star break and brought his equipment with him because he planned to go directly to St. John’s, Nfld., for Binghamton’s next game on Friday. “You’re always hoping that you’ll get a call up, but I guess it’s a bit surprising now that I’m on the break.”

Injuries could open the door for Zibanejad. Captain Daniel Alfredsson, who didn’t play in Sunday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins due to the flu, wasn’t at Monday’s practice. Neither were centres Jason Spezza and Zack Smith, along with defenceman Erik Karlsson. While MacLean says they were all given the day off for “maintance issues,”the team won’t rush players back too soon with an extra body available.

Zibanejad, selected sixth overall in the 2011 draft, played the first nine games of the 2011-12 season with the Senators before going back to finish out the year with Djurgardens in Sweden. Although he was the hero of the world junior championship, scoring the game winning overtime goal in the championship game, there weren’t many other highlights. The Senators were disappointed with how Djurgardens used him and he didn’t develop as well as expected.

Then came the slow start this season and the series of setbacks, subjects Zibanejad doesn’t want to dwell on.

“Everything came at once,” he said. “I guess that happens. It was a bit unfortunate, but now I’m healthy and back to normal.”

Once he started scoring, co-inciding with NHL players returning to training camps following the lockout – his confidence began to grow.

He jumped into a bigger role because Jakob Silfverberg and Mike Hoffman were called up to Ottawa for training camp and he credits his “good linemates” Mark Stone and Stephane DaCosta for helping him produce offensively.

Murray says the timing is right for Zibanejad to have a chance to again showcase the talent he displayed during the club’s training camp before the 2011-12 season.

“I think he’s a guy that Paul will probably want to give a game or two to right now and find out a little bit about him,” said Murray. “His speed and his size should be an asset for us.”

If and when Zibanejad plays, Murray says it will be MacLean’s decision on whether he plays as a centre or a winger.

Tags: , , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment