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Kuba has found a home in Ottawa

by Adam Schwartz /
Bryan Murray didn't have a lot of maneuver room. Andrej Meszaros was unsigned, not coming to camp and both sides appeared to be at an impasse.

A general manager doesn't like to deal with a weak hand, but the trade that sent Meszaros to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defensemen Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard and a 2009 first-round draft pick has worked out pretty well for the Senators.

"When I first found out I got traded it was a surprise," Kuba told "I didn't know it was going to happen so it sort of came out of nowhere for me. Obviously, I was looking forward to going back to the Czech Republic where the Lightning where starting their season. I was going to see some friends, but then I got traded here and that didn't happen and we started the season in Sweden. It was a good experience for us to come together as a good team."

During the offseason, the Senators lost longtime defensive mainstay and power-play quarterback Wade Redden, who signed with the New York Rangers. Meszaros was the logical choice to replace him, but the contract stalemate led to the trade that landed Kuba in Ottawa.

While Kuba doesn't have a booming point shot, he has shown excellent vision and playmaking ability, leading the Senators with 10 power-play assists. For the season, Kuba has a goal and 19 assists in 28 games and is plus-8.

"He's a really good player and he helps us out on the power play, obviously," coach Craig Hartsburg said. "He's worked out well on our team so far because he's a power-play guy and a puck-moving guy. He's not selfish with the puck and he's a good distributor and moves the puck well. Wade Redden was here last season and he was a puck-moving guy and Kuba has helped this team fill that role."

Kuba is tied with Montreal's Andrei Markov for second ijn the NHL for assists by a defenseman, trailing only Calgary's Dion Phaneuf. And he's averaging just above 24 minutes of ice time per game. While it's common for power-play point men to work with a different partner while their team has the man advantage, that hasn't been the case with Kuba, who often is paired with Picard.

"I'm playing with Alexandre Picard and we play together on the power play as well as even strength," Kuba said. "We work together well, not just on the power play, but also at even strength. He's a good partner because he is a fast defenseman and he gets in good position so I can pass to him. I think it helps that we play together regularly and we are used to each other."

Picard knows it's important to have familiarity with his defense partner, but also is aware that the pairings are not set in stone.

"I think he (Kuba) is a pretty good partner," Picard said. "We played together a little bit in Tampa Bay last season before we got traded here. So now that we are playing together here, we are used to where each other will be on the ice.

"We played together for a couple games last season in Tampa Bay, but we got switched up a lot last season. I played with just about every defenseman with the Lightning last season. Right now I'm playing with Kubs, but that could easily change and I could be playing with someone else. On some teams I changed who I played with every two or three games."

Since Kuba and Picard are offensive defensemen, Picard knows they have to be conscious when one of them is taking a chance in the offensive zone.

"With us both being offensive defensemen, we have to be careful when we take chances," Picard said. "We have to make sure that we aren't both rushing into the play at the same time and that one of us is back to make sure that we don't get caught up the ice. At the same time we still feel that we have to force the attack."

While Kuba is an offensive threat, he also takes pride in his defensive-zone play. Kuba also kills penalties. He's been disappointed by the Senators' cold start, but he believes that if the team pays closer attention to detail, its fortunes can improve.

"Obviously we have to start winning," Kuba said. "We've had a rough time lately, but we have to do the little things right, like getting the puck in their zone and playing well in our own zone."

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