KANATA, Ont. -- Ottawa Senators rookie Colin Greening had no idea what was in store for him this season.
"The expectations coming into this season were that I wanted to be in the lineup full-time. Where I was going to be, I had no idea," Greening told NHL.com.
"We had a lot of young prospects, we had [Mika] Zibanejad, we didn't really know if we were going to keep him or not. We had 13 forwards in our contract. You never really know coming into camp exactly what line you're going to be on, so my goal was to have a good camp, prove that I should be a mainstay in the lineup every single night. Anything more than that was unrealistic."
Where Greening ended up was on the top line of the Senators -- a team on the rebound. Rebuilding clubs see a great deal of line shuffling, as they attempt to forge chemistry among players. But Greening's play has seen him remain on the first line alongside high-powered forwards Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. Getting the chance to share ice time with the veterans has been a boost to Greening's ego.
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"Playing with Spezza and Michalek really helps in terms of confidence because you feel more comfortable with the puck," Greening said. "You feel more confident making plays that if you were on a tighter leash -- not to say that I'm not on a tight leash -- I'm nowhere near the skill level of them. But because we're on a line that's generally asked to produce offense, we do have a little bit of leeway where we can take our time and make a few extra plays. I think that takes confidence. I like to think I'm a confident guy. So playing with those guys, I feel confident because I feel like if I screw up, they're there to back me up. And when you're in a play like that, it brings out the best in you. I hope I bring out the best in them, so they feel confident in exuding their skills.
"In terms of confidence in playing with those guys this year -- and the time I logged with [Kyle] Turris and [Daniel] Alfredsson, all those guys -- it helps a lot. When you're at the NHL level, there are a lot of good guys out there, so any time you get to play at this skill level, it definitely helps your game."
Before their 2010-11 season came to a disappointing ending, the 26-year-old logged some time with Ottawa's No. 1 center and that opportunity served as a warm-up for this year.
"The last 15 games or so last year, I was lucky enough to play with Spezza and we had some good chemistry there," Greening said. "So when I was put on that line with Michalek and Spezza, I felt good coming in there because I felt I had experience, we put up some good numbers and we felt comfortable together. I think that's the most important thing. I don't think I was as nervous as other people would've been because I had that prior chance, which helped a lot."
Greening was part of Binghamton's Calder Cup championship team last season, and although he realizes the American Hockey League is different from the NHL, he took away some valuable lessons that will apply regardless of the league.
"Obviously I'm basing everything on my playoff experience last year [with Binghamton], but everyone played each game like it was their last," Greening said. "Guys were playing hurt, it was tighter, it's grittier, it's hard-hitting. You don't get too many nice goals in the playoffs, and it's a lot of whacking and hacking to get the puck in the back of the net."
Greening then took a breath and smiled.
"But it's fun," he said. "You're playing every second day and you're beating your body down. But you're working towards something and everyone else is having fun, too. It's the best time of the year."