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Ryan expected to play with Duchene in return to Senators lineup

Forward back from broken finger to face Penguins

by Mike Battaglino / Staff Writer

Forward Bobby Ryan is set to return to the Ottawa Senators lineup and is expected to play on a line with recently acquired Matt Duchene against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; RDS2, TSN5, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV).

Ryan hasn't played since Oct. 21. Duchene will play his first home game for Ottawa after being traded by the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 5.

"Now you've got to rebuild something, right?" Ryan told TSN Wednesday after practice. "The good thing is, I feel like it's a restart, and it's a fresh start for Matt, so we're able to do it together a little bit here and go through it together. … I hope I can pick up where I left off."

Ryan had six assists in eight games playing wing on a line with Derick Brassard and Mark Stone before he broke his finger blocking a shot in a 6-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said he combined Ryan and Duchene in an effort to spread out the Senators offense.

"Right now I need to try things because Duchene is new," Boucher said. "With Bobby back, that's one thing I haven't tried yet. …

"If we're able to have Duchene and Bobby work, we can end up with two first lines. So that would be a 1-2 punch that the top teams have. ... If it doesn't click, it doesn't click, but if it clicks ..."

Video: WSH@OTT: Brassard punches home great feed from Ryan

Ryan, who missed eight games, and Duchene were on a line with wing Ryan Dzingel. Brassard and Stone were with Mike Hoffman after playing with Dzingel since Ryan was injured.

"I think the way that we play is kind of similar, below the tops of the circles, I think we both like to kind grind down low, kind of spin off and make plays in little areas, and we're both not shy to get at the net," Ryan said of Duchene. "... I think that him and I are going to have a lot of chemistry in the corners."

Ryan, 30, and Duchene, 26, have known each other since Duchene was a teenager skating at a camp run by Duchene's uncle in Anaheim, California. They also competed often when Ryan was with the Anaheim Ducks (2008-13). Duchene was Colorado's first-round pick (No. 3) at the 2009 NHL Draft.

"We've played against each other in the West quite a bit, so I've kind of seen him come up and had some tough nights against him in the past," Ryan said. "He does everything well, he sees the ice, he can shoot, he can score, he goes to the hard areas, he's an elite center in the League."

Duchene said, "He's just as talented as I remember. A guy that a lot of my teammates have told me about a little bit about his style of play and have just raved about him, so I'm excited to play with him."

Duchene played primarily with Hoffman in two 4-3 wins against the Avalanche at the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series in Stockholm on Friday and Saturday.

The game Thursday is Ottawa's first against the Penguins since the Senators lost to them in overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. Pittsburgh went on to defeat the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final to win its second consecutive championship.

"We only see Pittsburgh twice in the West, so now getting to see them a little bit more is exciting," Duchene said. "You get to match up against some of the best in the game, so that's automatically something that drives you as an individual, and then on top of that with them being as good a team as they have, back-to-back champions, it's a good measuring stick for us as a group."

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