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Senators' Lazar sticks in lineup against Blue Jackets

by Chris Stevenson / NHL.com

BLUE JACKETS (3-1-0) at SENATORS (3-1-0)

TV: FS-O, SN

OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators rookie forward Curtis Lazar had a simple goal Thursday during the pregame ceremony in their home opener against the Colorado Avalanche.

"I did not want to fall. When I got to center, I was quite proud of myself to get out there," the 19-year-old said. "To hear the crowd cheer, it was incredible. I had goose bumps and chills that entire time. My first NHL home opener. It's a night I'll never forget."

When the Senators play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, Lazar will be back on a line with center Zack Smith and veteran left wing Milan Michalek and working to continue to earn the trust of the coaching staff.

Senators coach Paul MacLean made Lazar a healthy scratch against the Florida Panthers on Monday.

"(MacLean) said I'd been through a lot in the last month. Just let it digest. Take a breath and take a step back," Lazar said. "Nobody likes to be scratched and I was a little mad. Everyone wants to be playing.

"I took it as an opportunity to watch the game from a different perspective. I realize I have more time and I can really just be myself. Coming in Thursday I had the mindset, 'Play, don't think, and have fun.' That's exactly what I did. I was happy with the pace I was able to play with. [Smith] and [Michalek] made things incredibly easy for me."

Lazar is eligible to be returned to junior and is making a case he belongs with the Senators.

MacLean used Lazar in some key situations Thursday night. He played the last shift of the second period when the Senators were down by a goal and for the last shift of the game when they were ahead.

"It's huge. Coming into this, I wanted to earn the coach's trust early," Lazar said. "I'm going to make the high-percentage plays. Maybe instead of threading a pass through a couple of guys, I'm going to take the safer approach and go from there.

"With more confidence I'll be able to stretch my offense a little bit more. It speaks volumes. I'm proud of myself to be in those situations and I felt for the most part I got the job done."

Lazar picked up his first NHL point, an assist, Thursday. At first it looked like his shot had beaten Colorado goaltender Calvin Pickard after it bounced in the air and behind the goaltender, but Smith knocked it off the goal line and into the net for the first goal in the Senators 5-3 win.

Lazar moved in with Senators veteran defenseman Chris Phillips and his family Friday and spent Friday evening playing video games with Phillips' son, Ben.

"I'm very fortunate for the situation I'm in. They've been nothing but awesome taking me in. It's only been one night, but I feel good," Lazar said.

MacLean said he expected the Senators to be less nervous Saturday against the Blue Jackets than in the home opener Thursday night.

"We want to continue to build momentum here at home. I think our start we anticipate will be a little less anxious. We've already played a game (at home). We want to try and dictate the way the game is played at the very start," MacLean said.

The Blue Jackets defeated the Calgary Flames 3-2 Friday night and had an optional skate Saturday morning at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said the only change to the lineup he used Friday night would be Curtis McElhinney starting in goal.

The Blue Jackets are off to a 3-1 start while missing key forwards Nathan Horton, Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner because of injury.

"When you're missing three guys out of the lineup, there's more ice time, more opportunities for others," Richards said.

"Boone, Dubie and Nathan, those are some pretty big shoes to fill. Our young guys have done a good job but we've also had some veteran players filling in those roles, whether it's power play, penalty kill or 5-on-5. For me, we've been getting contributions from a lot of different people."

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUE JACKETS

Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - Cam Atkinson

Scott Hartnell - Artem Anisimov - Alexander Wennberg

Matt Calvert - Mark Letestu - Jack Skille

Corey Tropp - Michael Chaput - Jared Boll

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout

Tim Erixon - James Wisniewski

Curtis McElhinney

Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratched: Cody Goloubef, Adam Cracknell, Marko Dano

Injured: Nathan Horton (back), Ryan Murray (knee), Boone Jenner (hand), Brandon Dubinsky (lower body), Sonny Milano (upper body)

SENATORS

Clarke MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Mark Stone

Bobby Ryan - Mika Zibanejad - Alex Chiasson

Milan Michalek - Zack Smith - Curtis Lazar

Mike Hoffman - David Legwand - Chris Neil

Chris Phillips - Erik Karlsson

Patrick Wiercioch - Cody Ceci

Mark Borowiecki - Eric Gryba

Robin Lehner

Craig Anderson

Scratched: Jared Cowen, Colin Greening, Erik Condra

Injured: Marc Methot (back/hip)

Status report: Playing the second of back-to-back games, the Blue Jackets are expected to give McElhinney his first start of the season. Lehner will start his second game of the season for the Senators. He was in goal for the Senators 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning a week ago. MacLean is making one other change, putting Hoffman in the lineup and scratching Condra.

Who's hot: Johansen has three goals in the Blue Jackets past two games and leads the team in scoring with six points. Foligno (one goal, four assists) and Atkinson (three goals, two assists) each have five points in the Blue Jackets four games. Turris has a point in each of the Senators four games (one goal, three assists).

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