Check out the NHL game notes for Game 4 between the Senators and Penguins.
|After spending the last 25 games of his season in the American Hockey League, Jonathan Cheechoo returns to the Senators lineup tonight for Game 4 of their playoff series against the Penguins (Christian Petersen/Getty Images).
Jonathan Cheechoo's shot at redemption couldn't be coming at a more opportune — or crucial — time for the Ottawa Senators.
With their offence struggling for goals, the Senators are turning to the former Rocket Richard Trophy winner for some extra spark in tonight's crucial Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This evening's matchup at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) isn't exactly must-win yet for Ottawa, but it's awfully close. The Penguins hold a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series and, with a win tonight, the Stanley Cup champions could close it out Thursday night at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.
Since pumping five goals past Penguins goaltender Marc-André Fleury in a Game 1 victory, the Senators have been limited to just three in the last 120 minutes of play. Enter Cheechoo, who has a strong playoff pedigree. In five previous playoffs runs with the San Jose Sharks, he produced 16 goals in 58 games.
"He’s got a history of scoring some goals," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said in explaining why he's making the move to Cheechoo. "Right now, that’s (something) we feel we need more of — someone who, if he gets the opportunity, with one shot can change the game. We feel he’s one of those types of players."
Cheechoo, who was demoted to the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators in early February, hopes he can provide just that in his Ottawa return.
"I look at it as a chance to help this team out in any way I can," said the 29-year-old native of Moose Factory, Ont. "I’m going to come in here, work my hardest and, hopefully, I’m able to bring a positive result ... It's been a long year, but it's nice to get a shot here at playing in the playoffs and I want to take advantage of it."
"He’s got a history of scoring some goals. Right now, that’s (something) we feel we need more of — someone who, if he gets the opportunity, with one shot can change the game. We feel he’s one of those types of players." - Cory Clouston
His old stall in the Senators dressing room is now occupied by Matt Cullen. But ironically, Cheechoo has been given the spot formerly occupied by Milan Michalek
, who is done for the season with a knee injury. Both were obtained from the Sharks in the deal that shipped Dany Heatley to San Jose on the first day of training camp.
While Michalek was an early hit offensively, producing a hat trick in his sixth game with the Senators, Cheechoo struggled, scoring a career-low five goals before being sent to Binghamton. Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray said at the time he hoped Cheechoo could rediscover his scoring touch with the B-Sens and that appeared to happen, as he totalled eight goals and 14 points in 25 games.
Along the way, Cheechoo never lost the cheerful attitude that made him popular with his teammates in the Ottawa dressing room and with the media who cover the team.
"This is a great bunch of guys and no matter what happens, it’s hockey and you play for the guys in the dressing room," said Cheechoo, who'll start the game on the fourth line tonight with Jesse Winchester
and Zack Smith
. "I’m going to come out and play hard (tonight). My ultimate goal is to win a Stanley Cup and I get a chance to contribute here and help out, and that’s what I’m going to try to do.
"To win a Stanley Cup, it takes everybody chipping in and, hopefully, our line can chip in out there."
He's counting on his playoff experience to provide a big assist tonight.
"I look at it as a chance to help this team out in any way I can. I’m going to come in here, work my hardest and, hopefully, I’m able to bring a positive result ... It's been a long year, but it's nice to get a shot here at playing in the playoffs and I want to take advantage of it." - Jonathan Cheechoo
"I've been there most of my career," said Cheechoo, who led the National Hockey League with 56 goals in 2005-06. "I know what it takes. It’s a little tougher, a little grittier and they let a few more calls go. You have to battle a little more to get to the front of the net to score goals. Hopefully, I can do that tonight."
The latter point might apply to the Senators across the board. Making life tougher for Fleury, who had to handle only 42 shots combined in the last two games of the series.
"That's our plan," said Senators centre Mike Fisher. "(Fleury) is seeing too many pucks right now and we've got to make sure we're in those scoring areas getting those rebounds because he's giving them up. We've got to make the effort to get into those areas and make it happen."
There is no shortage of confidence in the Senators dressing room that they can get that job done tonight.
"We know we’re only down a game," said centre Jason Spezza
. "We know this a big game, but we’re confident and we feel we can play better than we’ve played (so far). This has been a close series and every game can go either way. We don’t feel like we’re out of it."
Around the boardsDaniel Alfredsson
caused a stir by skipping the morning pre-game skate, but Clouston said the captain should be in the Senators lineup tonight. His teammates fully expect the same thing. "He says he's fine," Spezza said of his linemate. "He's just resting, I think. He's played a lot of hockey for us this year and a lot of minutes. More gets made of (this) because we're in the playoffs, but I think he's feeling pretty good." ... With Cheechoo drawing into the lineup, Ryan Shannon becomes a healthy scratch ... A Senators victory tonight would guarantee a Game 6 on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Scotiabank Place ... Fewer than 150 tickets remain for tonight's game.