Friday, first-year Senators coach Craig Hartsburg announced Heatley would be an alternate captain this season, joining incumbent Chris Phillips in helping Daniel Alfredsson with his captaincy duties.
The announcement of the 27-year-old Heatley as an alternate captain might have come as a surprise to some, but Hartsburg said the player earned the accolade.
"There's a lot of guys that we looked at," Hartsburg said Friday. "It was my conversations with Dany over the summer and watching the players and how they interact with teammates and their work habits. I think Dany will be a great leader."
Heatley, without being boastful, agrees. He feels the added responsibility comes at exactly the right time in his career, which is entering its seventh season, fourth with the Senators.
"It feels great," Heatley said. "I've been here three years now and in the League for six or seven and I feel I can do more -- be more of a leader and play in more situations and Craig has given me that opportunity. It's definitely an honor."
Heatley said the best way for him to lead is to continue to produce on the offensive end as he has in the past. But he says he also understands the goals are not going to come every night, so he has to contribute more to the team in other areas, like playing a sound defensive game.
For Alfredsson, Heatley's ability to grasp that concept shows he is ready to step into a formal leadership role.
"He's just grown more comfortable," said Alfredsson. "He knows he is one of the best goal scorers in the League. He takes on a bigger role every year because he is just a better player. He wants to contribute more in other areas, like the penalty kill. I think this is the evolution of a really good player."
ANOTHER A -- Pittsburgh also made some news on the leadership front, naming Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik as the alternates to captain Sidney Crosby.
Penguins coach Michel Therrien said he wants to build his young leadership core and is using the absence of defenseman Sergei Gonchar, an alternate last season, to blend some new players into leadership roles.
In fact, he plans to alternate the alternates on a monthly basis to give as many deserving players as possible the opportunity to adopt a formal leadership position within the team.
Why Malkin as the choice in October?
"It's well-deserved because he stepped up as a leader last year when Sidney was out (with injury)," Therrien said.
Malkin scored 47 goals and was one of just two players to top 100 points last season as he carried the team for long stretches while Crosby missed six weeks with a high-ankle sprain. Malkin's 106 points was 21 more than his total from the previous season.
The Pens hope Malkin can make a similar jump off the ice, going from a shy newcomer to the team to a more gregarious veteran that demands accountability from his teammates.
The unkindest cut — Janne Pesonen was the odd man out when the Pittsburgh Penguins pared their roster Friday night.
Pesonen remains with the team and will be with the Pens for the weekend before returning to North America with the club and reporting to the Pens' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes Barre, Pa.
"It was a tough decision," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "The kid had a good camp. He's close. It's an adjustment for him to play at the NHL level.
"We like his skill. He's good around the net. Like I said, we like him, but he has some things to work on."
Therrien says Pesonen's demotion is not permanent; he will be the first call-up in case of injury or player struggles.
"We’ll see him back in Pittsburgh," Therrien said after Saturday’s morning skate.
With Pesonen's demotion, two long shots — Paul Bissonnette and Pittsburgh native Bill Thomas — made the Penguins team out of camp, something at which even Therrien expressed mild surprise.
"Honestly, they earned their places," the coach said. "You have a plan when you open camp, but you have to have an open mind. We had an open mind and we let the players make the decision."
You're out — Both the Senators and Penguins got bad news on the injury front before Saturday's opener.
Ottawa, the home team for tonight’s game, was forced to play without the services of Mike Fisher, its stellar defensive center. Fisher re-injured his groin in Thursday's exhibition game against Frolunda.
Fisher was on the ice for the morning skate, but ruled himself out after the session.
"I tried to skate and I can't go the way that I need to go to help the team," Fisher said. "I just didn't feel right, my stride. It wasn't good enough to be able to play."
Both Fisher and Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg conceded that it is unlikely that Fisher will play in Sunday’s game.
The news was just as bad during the second skate when second-line winger Petr Sykora was ruled out with his own troublesome groin injury. Sykora did not take part in the Penguins' morning skate.
That put Therrien in a pessimistic mood about Sykora’s availability for Sunday’s game.
"I'm not expecting a miracle at midnight," Therrien said.
Tyler Kennedy was moved up to the wing on the second line — with Evgeni Malkin at center and Jordan Staal on the other wing — to replace Sykora. Jeff Taffe was inserted as the fourth-line center.
REMEMBER ME? -- Jarkko Ruutu played for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, fighting and clawing with that team all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Now he plays for the Ottawa Senators after signing there this summer.
He put to rest any notions of harboring divided loyalties Friday because of the close bonds he shares with some of the Penguins players.
"They have a lot of good guys over there and I had a lot of good experiences with that team over there," he said. "I enjoyed my time there, but you can't look back."
And he expects the Penguins to feel the same.
"They'll probably try to kill me, but that makes it even," he said, with his trademark mischievous smile.
Ruutu's game is about irritating opposing players. Last season he did it to Ottawa. Now Ottawa will use him to get Pittsburgh's top players off their game. It seems he has already passed on some weaknesses of his former team to his new mates.
"He gave us a few hints on who to tease and what not," Alfredsson said. "It'll maybe help."
"They have a lot of good guys over there and I had a lot of good experiences with that team over there. I enjoyed my time there, but you can't look back." – Jarkko Ruutu
"I've been trying to learn some Russian over the summer to work on Geno (Malkin)," Ruutu said. "I'm still working on it."
MASKED MAN -- John Curry, the Penguins' No. 3 goalie, was a big hit at Friday's open practice at the Globe Arena.
After all his teammates left the ice, Curry still was signing autographs, taking every jersey, including a few New Jersey Devils jerseys, program and piece of paper thrust his way and returning it with a signature and a smile.
The fans clamored over each other to get good position to be next in line, acting like Curry was the second coming of Crosby.
"Little do they know," Curry told NHL.com, flashing a self-deprecating smile as he peeled off his pads.
Curry knows this joy ride with the Penguins soon will end, probably as soon as he returns to North America. Most likely, the club's American Hockey League, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, are in Curry's not-to-distant future.
So he's going to enjoy every minute of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"It's just unreal," Curry said. "It's been a great experience, not only to be a part of this team, but you're also going to Sweden. It's been incredible."
Curry knows minor-league hockey looms around the corner, but he doesn't have to think about it. He is having far too much in Sweden.
"It'll be very hard to go home," he said. "Maybe I'll just stay here."