|Fifteen months after making his NHL debut, Kaspars Daugavins gets another shot for the Senators tonight against the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. He's been one of the top offensive threats for the Binghamton Senators so far this season and an alternate captain (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
The dream still burns brightly inside Kaspars Daugavins.
For one night, at least, the Latvian forward will take his talents to hockey's biggest stage, joining the Ottawa Senators as a callup for tonight's matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200). Daugavins is in the lineup for captain Daniel Alfredsson, who'll sit out this evening to rest an ailing right hip flexor.
"It's another chance to show my game and I'm on a line with two great players," said Daugavins, who'll line up alongside Swedish rookie Mika Zibanejad and Nick Foligno to start the game. "It might be a good chance tonight."
Daugavins, a third-round pick (91st overall) by the Senators in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft — the same year they made Foligno their top selection — has only one previous game of National Hockey League experience on his resume, back on Jan. 14, 2010, against the New York Rangers. But he has resisted overtures from back home to keep chasing his biggest dream.
"My hometown team (Dinamo Riga of the Kontinental Hockey League) wanted me back the last four years, but I still feel like I can crack the NHL somehow," said Daugavins, 23. "I'm going to keep battling until I make it. If I see I have no chance to make it here, then maybe I'll go home."
With a strong training camp, Daugavins made a strong case for himself. And it's perhaps telling that he was the Senators' initial forward callup of the season — even if it's just for one game (Alfredsson expects to return Thursday against the Florida Panthers).
"Kaspars had a real good training camp for us and he's part of the depth of our team," said Senators head coach Paul MacLean. "We can only keep 23 guys here and we chose to keep 22. He needed to play well in Binghamton and he did do that. He's one of their leading scorers thre and we told him when he left (to join the B-Sens) that if we needed him to come up and play, he'd be an important player for us and he would get an opportunity to play here.
"We didn't really expect it to be (after) seven or eight games, but we expect him to come in and play well for us."
Last spring, Daugavins played a key role in the B-Sens' run to the Calder Cup crown, totalling 10 goals and 10 assists in the post-season. That strong play has carried over to this season, as he ranks second (4-2-6) in team scoring behind captain Mark Parrish.
"I was hoping I would get called up, but I knew it would only be if I played well in Binghamton," said Daugavins. "I had a pretty good start, so there was a little bit of hope that I would get called up. But I didn't expect it to be this soon, so I'm kind of lucky."
Daugavins is only being counted upon as a leader in Binghamton — head coach Kurt Kleinendorst named him one of the B-Sens' assistant captains, along with American Hockey League veteran Tim Conboy — and he's more than happy to oblige.
"We're a young team and we're struggling a little bit," Daugavins said of his new role with the B-Sens (3-3-1). "But it helps that some guys have NHL experience and they can tell the young guys how to play in different situations. And I'm one of those guys.
"Maybe the coach is trusting me a little more (after) last year. It's a young team, so maybe he wants to trust the older guys with a little more ice time and that kind of feels good, too. I've had a few goals and felt good on the ice."
Petersson making strides with B-Sens
Seems like Andre Petersson is starting to feel at home with the Binghamton Senators.
The Swedish import scored his first North American professional goal and added the shootout clincher as the B-Sens edged the Admirals 3-2 at the Scope Arena on Saturday in Norfolk, Va. It helped Binghamton rebounded from a 7-0 setback at the hands of the Admirals the night before.
Kleinendorst had plenty of praise afterward for the 5-9, 172-pound Petersson, a fourth-round pick (109th overall) by the parent Ottawa Senators in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
"He was probably our best forward," Kleinendorst told the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin after Saturday's win in Norfolk. "I saw so many good things in his game. It just his compete level — because the way he played was much more determined — but he even started to do some of the things that are new to him.
"The North American game is a little different than what he's used to on the big (ice), but I just felt like his whole game was the best I've seen him play. And isn't it amazing how it ended up being the best production he's had for us? I'm very happy for him ... he needed that, as well."
Down on the farm
It's another busy weekend ahead for the B-Sens, who face the Albany Devils (Friday) and Rochester Americans (Saturday) on home ice at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena before hitting the road on Sunday to face off against the Hershey Bears ... Mark down the date Nov. 13 on your calendar. That's when Binghamton makes its annual trek to Scotiabank Place to square off against the Hamilton Bulldogs, the top affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. Tickets for the 1 p.m. contest are available now through www.CapitalTickets.ca and start at just $12.