Zibanejad returns to Sens’ lineup

Early in his tenure as Ottawa Senators coach, Paul MacLean said that young NHL players must learn that having a great game once in a while isn’t enough. MacLean said that incoming players have to remember the best game they had in junior and duplicate it every night in the big leagues.

Early in his tenure as Ottawa Senators coach, Paul MacLean said that young NHL players must learn that having a great game once in a while isn’t enough. MacLean said that incoming players have to remember the best game they had in junior and duplicate it every night in the big leagues.
Which brings us to the on-going development of Mika Zibanejad, the 19-year-old centre/winger, who was back in the lineup Tuesday after being a healthy scratch on Monday against the New Jersey Devils.
“He didn’t really skate, handle the puck or be involved physically and those are the things we would like to see him do,” a refreshingly blunt MacLean said Tuesday, explaining why he had pulled Zibanejad from the lineup.
Zibanejad, who took the spot of Jim O’Brien against the Islanders, had scored only one goal and two assists in 10 games since being recalled from Binghamton of the American Hockey League. He wasn’t pleased with his own effort in Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and says he learned some lessons while watching Monday’s game from above.
“I think it was good,” Zibanejad said before Tuesday’s game. “As a learning process, it was good for me to watch, to get an overview of the game. You don’t realize (the time you have). I have to take advantage of that. I have to work harder.”
THE LONG DRIVE TO THE NHL
Eric Gryba knows all about driving long distances, having carried a trailer behind him from Saskatoon to Binghamton for the opening of AHL training camp last fall.
For all that, he completely understands why his good friends from Saskatoon opted to make the trek to Ottawa for his home debut with the Senators on Tuesday, rather than making last-minute plans to see his NHL debut in Toronto on Saturday.
“It was a matter of getting flights out (of Saskatoon),” the newest Senators defenceman said before Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders. “It turns out, they would have had to drive all the way to Billings, Mont., and then fly (to Toronto). It didn’t make much sense.”
For those who don’t have time to do the research, that drive is about 9½ hours.
While his mother did get to see him against the Maple Leafs (his father didn’t make the trip due to recent ankle surgery), Gryba acknowledges having some nerves in his first game, playing under the big hockey lights in Toronto and on Hockey Night in Canada.
“I settled down a little more (Monday against New Jersey) and I felt more comfortable, more relaxed, trying to be as much of a physical presence as possible.”
Gryba, normally paired with Marc Methot in the spot previously owned by Erik Karlsson, played 20:11 against the Devils.
At this point, he’s not thinking about anything except his next shift.
“Just try to screw up as little as possible,” he said. “It has been a blast. I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
AN UNSTOPPABLE SHOT?
Senators back-up goaltender Ben Bishop had a brief conversation with No. 1 Craig Anderson before Sunday’s shootout against the New Jersey Devils, talking about the tendencies of Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and Bobby Butler. Turns out patience was the answer, as Bishop outwaited all three to post the shootout shutout.
Bishop, meanwhile, had a pretty clear idea what Senators rookie Jakob Silfverberg was going to do with his first NHL shootout chance; a lightning-quick snap shot that beat Martin Brodeur over his trapper.
“He’s done that a lot of times and I saw it a lot in the American Hockey League,” said Bishop, who was in Binghamton with Silfverberg during the lockout. “It’s so hard to read. So quick. It’s the release. It’s one of the best releases I’ve ever seen.
“A lot of times, the ice is bad, so he has trouble, but when he gets good ice, he’s pretty much unstoppable.”
Silfverberg acknowledges it is his favourite shootout play. But if the goaltender takes it away, what does he do?
“Shoot to the other side,” he said, with a smile. “That would be my move.”
UPDATE FROM THE TRAINER’S ROOM
There was no update on the status of left-winger Milan Michalek, who has missed the past four games with a knee injury suffered during warm-ups last Wednesday against Pittsburgh.
“There’s still some evaluation going on and when he’s finally evaluated, we’ll know what it is,” MacLean said.
Centre Peter Regin is also making a slower-than-expected recovery from a chest injury, but the Senators coach said he hasn’t suffered any setback.
Meanwhile, Guillaume Latendresse continues to deal with the effects of what the Senators are calling whiplash. The symptoms sound similar to post-concussion syndrome. Latendresse hasn’t played since Jan. 30. He’s not skating, either.
“He has had some improvement and his exercise (level) has gone up,” MacLean said.
NO CARKNER FOR ISLANDERS
John Tavares is unquestionably the Islanders marquee draw, fast becoming one of the NHL’s top players. Yet for countless Senators fans, there was disappointment that former Senator Matt Carkner wasn’t in the lineup Tuesday because of a groin injury. He’s likely to miss at least another week. Carkner, the heavyweight from Winchester who patrolled the Senators’ blue-line for three seasons, left the Senators as a free agent when the Islanders gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse: a three-year, $4.5-million U.S. contract.
“He’s playing just the way we expected,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “Good defensive-minded defenceman that plays physical. We missed that element back there.”
Capuano understands why Carkner was a popular player in Ottawa
“I can understand why he’s a fan favourite. He’s a guy that sticks up for his teammates. He has done that for a few games for us against some guys who were very willing on the opposition team. Again, we just want to make sure he’s healthy (before he returns).”
kwarren@ottawacitizen.com
Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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