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Ryan ready for smooth transition to Senators' top line

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Being the new guy in town can make life difficult. For Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan, his arrival in a new place could have made for an awkward transition, but instead he's poised for big things.

Ryan was acquired this summer from the Anaheim Ducks in a blockbuster deal that saw the Senators give up prized prospects Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen as well as their first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

"Bobby's a guy whose skill is second to none," Senators captain Jason Spezza said. "He can score goals and he's proven he can do it consistently. To add a player like that to your team is a nice weapon. He can be a game breaker."

Bobby Ryan, the Senators' big offseason acquisition from the Ducks, has settled in on a scoring line with captain Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, and is poised for a big season. (Photo: Getty Images)

Slotting into the Senators' lineup after the departure of Daniel Alfredsson to the Detroit Red Wings could make life tough for Ryan, but Spezza doesn't see it that way.

"He fits into that dynamic with our team," Spezza said. "He's about the same age as most of the guys and he's fit in seamlessly."

Ryan skated on a line with Spezza and Milan Michalek during training camp and will start there Friday in the team's season opener against the Buffalo Sabres. He likes how things have gone so far.

"I think we built through camp. I think we felt really good," Ryan said. "Having those four days of practice or three days, whatever it was, that we had this week was really good. I think once the three of us get on the ice together and we're playing at that high speed, the skill should take over as long as we stick within the structure."

That structure could turn the Senators' top line into a juggernaut.

Ryan's role in Anaheim saw him bounce from left wing -- his off wing -- on the top line to occasionally center the second line.

Now that he'll be a first-line player at his natural right wing position, Senators coach Paul MacLean sees the potential that line has and knows if they hit it off right away, offense won't be a problem.

"We feel that we're going to give [Ryan] the opportunity and every opportunity," MacLean said. "The last time we had a regular, 82-game schedule, Jason Spezza was the fourth-leading scorer in the League. So we're going to try to give that every opportunity to be successful."

With such high expectations being placed on the top line, it adds an element of pressure. While MacLean will give them all the chances he can to make it work, Ryan said he knows what needs to be done.

Bobby Ryan
Right Wing - OTT
Goals: 11 | Assists: 19 | Pts: 30
Shots: 101 | +/-: 3
"I feel like I have to play my game and I was brought in to help the team win by, whether it's putting the puck [in], scoring goals, whatever it might be, I feel like there's pressure to do that," he said. "But if it doesn't happen right away, I'm not going to try to get down on myself, just continue to build on the start and that's the most important thing, getting those first two shifts and feeling good about yourself coming off the ice."

Change can be difficult for any player in a new situation. Plenty can happen to derail any hopes a coach or teammates might have. MacLean knows the pressure Ryan is under has to perform, but said he isn't looking to push his buttons.

"Their expectations are just like ours, so I don't think we have anything that we expect more of them than what they can actually do, and I don't think they expect more of themselves than what they can actually do," he said. "I think it's important that they know that and that they go on the ice and just try to be themselves.

"And if they do that, I think they'll be fine."

For Ryan and the rest of the Senators, hopes are higher than ever in Ottawa, with many experts believing they can be a Stanley Cup contender.

If he can fit into the lineup as seamlessly as he's fit into the locker room, the Senators will have the kind of offense that creates worry for everyone else in the League.

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