Tkachuk taking on central role in Senators rebuilding season

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Tkachuk taking on central role in Senators rebuilding season

Post by admin » Mon Dec 09, 2019 8:01 am

Brady Tkachuk’s ears must have been burning as the Ottawa Senators bus pulled away from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia late Saturday afternoon.

His name, after all, was on the tips of the tongues of Flyers faithful following Philadelphia’s chippy 4-3 victory.

The sports fans that once infamously pelted snowballs at Santa Claus during an NFL game weren’t offering him glad tidings of comfort and joy and best wishes for the Christmas season.

It was more along the lines of “that (expletive deleted) Tkachuk,” after the Senators’ 20-year-old winger finished the spirited contest by taking cross-checking and roughing minors against the pesky Scott Laughton.

The penalties, a reaction to Laughton’s words to the Senators bench after scoring the game winner four minutes earlier, effectively wiped out any chance the Senators had of tying the game in the final seconds.

The Tkachuk crosscheck also hit him in the wallet, with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety fining him $2,486 — the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement — putting a punctuation mark on a bumpy road trip that saw the Senators win only once in five games.

But here’s the thing. While Tkachuk crossed the line to make his point and he has made occasional youthful mistakes along the way, his competitive spirit never wavered throughout the trek.

After yet another slow start against Philadelphia, it might have been easy for the Senators to quietly disappear at the end of the largely forgettable road swing. Instead, Senators coach D.J. Smith says it was Tkachuk that “dragged us into the battle” when some of his teammates didn’t originally appear all that interested.

“I take notice when we’re not playing as well as we’re hoping to,” Tkachuk said when asked about trying to set an emotional tone for his teammates. “A lot of guys try to do whatever they can to spark things, whether it’s a goal or a fight from (Nick) Paul or (Jean-Gabriel) Pageau that sparked our team or a big hit. There are a lot of guys that create that spark.”

No doubt, after what happened at the end of Saturday’s game, he’ll receive some necessary reminders about the proper time and place for settling scores — remember, this is a season that’s all about development and learning lessons — but his afternoon also included a goal, six shots and seven hits.

Overall, Tkachuk showed the energy and passion that should lead him to become the club’s captain if and when he signs a long-term contract.

“We expect a lot of things in our locker room,” Tkachuk said. “We know that everybody has us marked where they have us marked. We disagree with everybody. We think we’re a better team. We know we’re a lot better than people think.

“All that really matters is the belief in the room and belief in one another.”

The Senators aren’t close to being a playoff team, but there is hope on the horizon. There are several veteran forwards currently holding the spots that will eventually belong to players who are either in Belleville of the AHL or not yet drafted.

After picking up three points in Belleville’s 7-1 win over Cleveland on Saturday, Drake Batherson leads the AHL in scoring with 10 goals and 21 assists in 31 games. Rudolfs Balcers has six goals and nine assists in 10 games, while both Alex Formenton (11 goals, five assists) and Josh Norris (10 goals, 10 assists) are also putting up solid offensive numbers.

The general idea is that Smith and general manager Pierre Dorion want a solid foundation of determined effort in place before that group of young talent arrives permanently.

That’s why Tkachuk’s approach matters so much.

“He’s a guy that is showing up every day,” Pageau said. “He’s giving his (everything) every time he’s on the ice, whether it’s game day or practice day. And he won’t change. He’s a competitor and we’re lucky to have him.”

As for the verbal abuse that sometimes comes with the territory, Tkachuk wouldn’t have it any other way.

AWAITING WORD ON ANDERSON: With Sunday being a welcomed off day for the Senators, there was no update on the status of goaltender Craig Anderson. He was replaced by Anders Nilsson after limping off the ice with a lower body early in the first period of Saturday’s loss. If Anderson isn’t healthy enough to serve as a back-up to Nilsson Monday against the Boston Bruins, Marcus Hogberg will likely be recalled once again from Belleville. Hogberg stopped 29 of 30 shots in Saturday’s win over Cleveland.

BEAUDIN GOES THE OTHER WAY: The Senators did re-assign J.C. Beaudin to Belleville on Sunday. Beaudin, who has one assist in 15 games with the Senators, has been a healthy scratch in three of the club’s past five games, including against Philadelphia.

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