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Derick Brassard happy to play for hometown Senators

Center acquired from Rangers eager to 'embrace the challenge' in Ottawa

by Chris Stevenson / Correspondent

OTTAWA -- When Derick Brassard visited Canadian Tire Centre as a young fan and then as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers, he thought about what it would be like to play for the Ottawa Senators, his hometown team.

The native of Gatineau, Quebec, across the Ottawa River from Canada's capital, is on the cusp of finding out.

Brassard, 29, was acquired by the Senators from the Rangers in a trade for center Mika Zibanejad on July 18, along with an exchange of draft picks (Ottawa received New York's seventh-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and the Rangers received the Senators' second-round pick in 2018).

"I love that idea," Brassard said of playing at home. "It's something I was thinking a lot when coming here and playing against the Sens (earlier in his career). I was coming with my dad to some games when I was younger. It feels really special to be here, honestly. It's hard to describe.

"I just feel lucky playing at home in front of my friends and family."

Brassard brings a few needed qualities to the Senators, who've missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs two of the past three seasons. He is a veteran forward on a young team (only Chris Kelly, Chris Neil and Clarke MacArthur are older up front). He is coming off a 27-goal season with the Rangers (Mike Hoffman led the Senators with 29 goals in 2015-16; Zack Smith was next with 25).

He has experience in big situations, having played 59 Stanley Cup Playoff games over the past four seasons, including a trip to the Cup Final in 2014.

He is a left-handed shot; new Senators coach Guy Boucher said that will give the staff more options on the power play because Ottawa didn't have a left-shooting center last season, when its power play finished 26th in the NHL.

Video: Derick Brassard on being an Ottawa Senator

"It's for sure going to be a big challenge for me, but I want some pressure," Brassard said. "That's what I play with, with some emotion and passion. There is nothing better than playing in a Canadian city, in my hometown. I'm just going to try and embrace the challenge and just go with it."

He said his time with the Rangers has prepared him for the challenges of being a leader with the Senators.

"Going to New York and having a lot of pressure, playing in some big games and going far in the playoffs, I think I'm there in my career," Brassard said. "I'm more mature. I just turned 29. I'm not a young guy anymore. I want to take a lot of responsibility on this team."

Brassard is expected to begin training camp on a line with MacArthur and Bobby Ryan. As a right wing, Ryan could benefit from having a left-shooting center who can move the puck to the right side on his forehand.

Since the trade, Ryan said he has been watching video of Brassard "to see where he prefers the puck, where he prefers to make plays."

Brassard said Ryan's play is similar to that of Rick Nash, Brassard's teammate with the Blue Jackets and Rangers.

"He reminds me of Rick Nash a lot," Brassard said. "I played with Rick for seven years. A tall guy with good hands. [Ryan] knows where to go in the offensive zone and I'm going to try to get some good chemistry with him and Clarke. I know he's been working hard here and I'm going to try and make it work together."

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