SAN JOSE -- Two days after being called up from Binghamton of the AHL, Ottawa rookie defenseman Mark Borowiecki will make his NHL debut Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks.
Borowiecki got the news Thursday morning before the Senators skated at HP Pavilion.
"The first few strides around the rink I was a little wobbly, but I'm feeling good now," said Borowiecki, the first Ottawa native ever drafted by the Senators. "I'm definitely very excited. It's something you work all your life to get to. It's just nice to get a chance now."
Borowiecki said his father, Tom, mother, Cynthia, and sister, Diana, are flying to San Jose for the game and then will travel to Los Angeles, where the Senators play the Kings on Saturday. His father made the plans before Borowiecki learned that he would be in the lineup against San Jose.
"They made a little holiday of it. So it worked out well, eh?" said Borowiecki, a fifth-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.
When he was recalled, Borowiecki had 15 points for Binghamton - three goals and 12 assists - tops among defensemen, and led the team with a plus-3 rating. He'll take Matt Carkner's spot in the lineup against San Jose.
"We thought he had a real good season last year when Binghamton won the Calder Cup," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "He was a big part of it. He's had a good training camp with us and exhibition season. He's played real well for them down there. We really want to see him play here in the National Hockey League and give him that opportunity, and we're pretty excited to see him play."
While Borowiecki makes his NHL debut, veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar will play in his 1,100th NHL game Thursday night.
"It's actually amazing," Gonchar said after the morning skate. "I never thought I'd play in the NHL when I was growing up. Back then in Russia, not that many players played in the NHL. The biggest dream to accomplish was to play for the local team. … Then I was drafted, and I started playing in the NHL, and I never dreamed I'd play that long. Playing 1,100 games is something special. Not that many players have done it and especially not that many Russians have done it. It's a good accomplishment for me."
Gonchar, 37, is playing in his 17th NHL season, a fact that also amazes him.
"The thing is the time is flying by," he said. "It seems like I just started playing in the NHL a little while ago - then it's 1,100. Time is flying by, season after season."
Gonchar, who has 24 points this season in 41 games, said he's not sure how many more years he'll play.
"I'm still enjoying the game and I'm having fun," he said. "If I'm going to still have that feeling, I'm going to continue playing."
Thursday night's game will be a homecoming for Senators forward Milan Michalek. The Sharks drafted him with the No. 6 pick in 2003, and he played 317 games for San Jose before being traded to Ottawa on Sept. 12, 2009, as part of the Dany Heatley deal.
"I had some good years here, and I started my career here," Michalek said. "I'm excited to play here. The fans are great here every time. It's going to be a lot of fun tonight."
This will be Michalek's second game at the Shark Tank as a Senator. On Dec. 1, 2009, he had a pair of assists in a 5-2 loss to the Sharks in San Jose. This time he's returning as an NHL All-Star. He has 23 goals, three off his career single-season high set in 2006-07 with San Jose, a team he first played for when he was still a teenager.
"It flies by," Michalek, now 27, said of the time. "I was 18, and I really couldn't speak English. It was tough times, but it was also fun, too, those years. I have great memories."
Michalek said he was "surprised" when the Sharks traded him to Ottawa.
"I didn't see it at all coming. I wasn't disappointed or anything. It's the NHL and trades can happen at any time, and it happens to everybody almost," he said. "So I just took it as another opportunity and wanted to play."
Now, Michalek said, he's happy that's he's rewarding the Senators for their faith in him.
"Yeah, I feel good. They wanted me. It was good for me and I was confident coming there."
Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Ottawa Senators at HP Pavilion:
- Joe Thornton
- Joe Pavelski
- Logan Couture
- Benn Ferriero
- Michal Handzus
- Torrey Mitchell
- Andrew Desjardins
- Andrew Murray
- Dan Boyle
- Brent Burns
- Justin Braun
- Jason Spezza
- Milan Michalek
- Kyle Turris
- Daniel Alfredsson
- Zack Smith
- Chris Neil
- Zenon Konopka
- Bobby Butler
- Erik Karlsson
- Sergei Gonchar
- Mark Borowiecki