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Global Series

Duchene looking for right fit with Senators

Skates on line with Hoffman, Smith during first practice in Sweden following whirlwind week

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

STOCKHOLM - It had been a long 48 hours -- or 72 hours or 96. It was hard to tell, exactly, given how many time zones Matt Duchene had been in since he slipped off the ice Sunday night in the middle of the Colorado Avalanche's game against the New York Islanders, and before that. 

He had been in Denver on Friday, Philadelphia on Saturday, New York on Sunday, Ottawa on Monday before arriving in Stockholm with his new Ottawa Senators teammates on Monday night. That's five cities in three countries in three time zones -- plus the small matter of the trade.

It would have been understandable if Duchene's head was spinning when he stepped on the ice Tuesday at Ericsson Globe for the first practice with his new team. Instead, he looked excited, happy, ready to get going on the next phase of a career that has been in limbo since he asked Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic for a trade last season. 

There were some things that were in short supply for Duchene.

"Sleep and food," he said. "I would have forgotten to eat actually when I was flying to Ottawa after the game, [except] when I was in LaGuardia (airport) flying out they had a little sit-down [restaurant]. Oh, I haven't eaten. I forgot. So I sat down and had a meal there.

"My stomach just -- I've had butterflies and things like that. Comes with the territory."

Video: Friedman talks about the blockbuster Duchene trade

Duchene said he didn't fall asleep that night until 3 a.m., then was up at 7:45 a.m. on Monday ahead of the flight to Sweden for the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series, which will have Duchene face off against his former team on Friday (2 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, ALT, TSN5, RDS, NHL.TV) and Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN, RDS, ALT, NHL.TV). 

"Obviously it's going to be weird playing against my old team back-to-back, but I think getting it done right away I think it's a good thing. You don't really have time to overthink it. It's going to be weird playing against the guys, I have a lot of friends over there. It's going to be fun, though."

Before that, though, there's work to be done.

The Senators need to figure out how they're going to integrate Duchene into their lines and their lineup, with coach Guy Boucher placing him between Zack Smith and Mike Hoffman during practice Tuesday. 

"Obviously you want to surround a player like (Duchene) with the best players possible and (Hoffman) is a first-line guy, that's what he's become, and since [Derick] Brassard and [Mark] Stone are clicking so well, we don't want to touch that," Boucher said. "So we're hoping to be able to create another pair with (Duchene). 

"Is it (Hoffman)? Is it Bobby Ryan? Is it [Ryan] Dzingel? We'll see as we move along, but the only way to do that is trying."

The idea, Boucher said, is to maximize Duchene's strengths, to make him fit. 

"He's a fast guy, he needs fast guys with him," Boucher said. "His hands are unbelievable. His qualities down low at being able to twist the opponent and force himself in and attack those seams going inside, which is our identity and we want it to grow. 

"I think that (Hoffman) being able to hide and loading up for that weapon that he's got, I think that could work, but if it doesn't -- I've seen it before -- it doesn't mean two good players click together. That's just a chemistry thing."

That means the lines remain a work in progress. But Boucher wants to give this a chance, to see if this might all work out, to strengthen the Senators as they push to improve upon last season, when they made it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final - which is exactly what Duchene wants.

"I'm the one coming in so I need to work to not disrupt them, that's kind of how I'm looking at it," Duchene said. "I know (Hoffman) is an unbelievable shooter, a guy who's capable of scoring a lot of goals. He's a guy that when he's open you want to get him the puck and let him shoot and (Smith) is one of those guys that he's a great power forward, goes to the net, has good hands, sees the ice well, heavy in the corners, a guy that creates room out there for you. 

"For me, I'll work off of (Smith's) forecheck and try to find (Hoffman) in the slot, I guess. That kind of seems like our dynamic, so I think we can be a good line."

At least, one day in, he has a plan. So does Boucher.

"What we're trying to do is trying to make Duchene figure out our systems and the way we play and how we do things as fast as we can, at the same time trying to make him feel comfortable and hopefully on Friday his head's not too filled with things he needs to think about and just goes out there and plays," Boucher said. 

That's what the Senators want him to do. It's what Duchene wants to do. Now, first, he just needs sleep and food and to let those butterflies calm down just a little bit as he gets set for his new life to begin. 

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