OTTAWA – Dave Cameron gets to coach his first NHL game for the Ottawa Senators against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
Welcome to the League, coach.
"Anxious. Emotional. Excited. Mainly excited because we had more meetings the last few days than the United Nations, so we'll be able to cut back on the meetings after this," Cameron said.
The 56-year-old was named the Senators 10th coach Monday when general manager Bryan Murray fired Paul MacLean.
Cameron, who as an assistant on MacLean's staff the past four years, said he appreciates the opportunity.
"When you get into this it's no different than a player starting in the minor leagues, you aspire to get to the National Hockey League," he said. "There are only 30 of these jobs available. There are a lot of good coaches out there that aren't in the National Hockey League and never make it to the National Hockey League. You have to get some things to line up for you to get the break to be here, much like winning a championship. Things have to fall into place. It's been a while, but I never put a time frame on it."
Cameron put the Senators through two intense practices, and the increase in skating and emphasis on winning 1-on-1 battles was noticeable.
"Throw the systems out the window. Throw the Xs and Os out the window, everything out the window if you don't have effort," Cameron said. "It just doesn't work. That's going to be our barometer. That's going to be a big part of the identity we're going to try and forge here. You don't have a chance if you don't have that."
The Senators won their last game under MacLean on Sunday, a 4-3 overtime victory against the Vancouver Canucks to snap a five-game losing streak.
The Kings have lost two games in a row and scored one goal. Defenseman Drew Doughty said the Kings are wary of the Senators playing their first game for a new coach.
"I'm sure they're going to come out flying," he said. "We fully expect that they are going to have a lot of energy due to that, and we need to match it and exceed it in order to win."
"We've played really well the last two games, we just haven't been able to put the puck in the net," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Hopefully they'll come for us."
As far as the boost the Senators might get with Cameron behind the bench, Sutter said every situation is different.
"Sometimes there's an effect right away, sometimes there isn't an effect," he said. "Sometimes it takes a year, sometimes it takes a couple of games. I was more concerned with who the referees were tonight than who the coaches were."
The Kings are fifth in the Pacific Division and sit a point out of the last playoff position in the Western Conference.
"That's kind of what we've been doing for years now, just kind of stick around in the first half of the season and the second half we turn it on and when we go into the playoffs, we always go in on a roll and that make us successful in the playoffs," Doughty said. "It's not what we want to be doing. We want to be a lot more successful in the first half, first quarter of the season. We need to turn it around quickly because we're losing points and we're losing ground on playoff points right now. We need to get some wins."
Ottawa center Mika Zibanejad had two goals and two assists in the win against the Canucks, his first multi-goal game in the League. The Senators coaches have been pushing the 21-year-old to shoot more and not to defer to his veteran linemates.
His play has been a real positive for the Senators after he was healthy scratch for two games at the end of last month.
"I feel like I took the message hard," Zibanejad said. "Dictate. Wanting the puck more and being more active, I think. It's something I've been working on. Trying to get better and stronger every day and hopefully it will pay off in the long run."
Bobby Ryan, who is playing with a broken finger, has clicked with Zibanejad and rookie Mike Hoffman.
"I think we're keeping it a little more simple than we were," Ryan said. "Mika is always a guy that's been a little hesitant to shoot because he feels he has to get the puck to me or anybody he's playing with. I tried to stress to him many times I'm never going to be mad at him for taking a shot, especially with the way he shoots the puck. He's doing that and that's opening up second and third opportunities. We're spending a little bit more time in the [offensive] zone because of it."
Here are the projected lineups:
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dustin Brown – Jarret Stoll – Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford – Mike Richards – Dwight King
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr – Alec Martinez
Brayden McNabb – Matt Greene
Scratched: Jamie McBain, Jordan Nolan, Slava Voynov
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris – Erik Condra
Mike Hoffman – Mika Zibanejad- Bobby Ryan
Mark Stone – Curtis Lazar – Alex Chiasson
David Legwand - Zack Smith – Chris Neil
Chris Phillips - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki - Eric Gryba
Scratched: Patrick Wiercioch
Injured: Clarke MacArthur (sick), Milan Michalek (upper body), Marc Methot (back/hip)
Status report: Methot, who has played two games this season, continues to struggle with a hip/back problem. He practiced Wednesday, but said when he tries to push it, the injury flares up …. Michalek will not play the next two games, Cameron said, but will go with the Senators on their upcoming three-game road trip … MacArthur left practice Wednesday with an illness and did not skate Thursday. Cameron said he would be a game-time decision … Nolan stayed out on the ice for extra work after the morning skate, so it's expected Clifford has recovered from the flu and will play on the fourth line … Quick left the ice first and is expected to start for the Kings.
Who's hot: Zibanejad has four goals and three assists in his past four games … Ryan has four assists in his past two games … Legwand has a two-game goal-scoring streak … The Senators power play is ranked fifth in the League at home (25.5 percent). They have scored 13 goals at home; they had 16 last season.