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Daugavins sinking teeth into latest opportunity

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Kaspars Daugavins celebrated his first career NHL goal on Sunday night, then returned to Binghamton, N.Y., to have four widsom teeth removed. Now he's eager to pick up where he left off with the Senators tonight against the Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images),

Kaspars Daugavins arrived back in Ottawa with a little less wisdom in tow.

Wisdom teeth, that is.

But the Senators forward knows now is the time to sink his teeth into a big-time opportunity to show what he can do in the National Hockey League. Reason enough to want to recover quickly from the dental surgery on Tuesday that removed a quartet of choppers from his mouth.

No pain, no gain, it might be said.

"I'm happy to play again," said Daugavins, who notched his first career NHL goal last Sunday — the game-winner, as it turned out, in a 3-2 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs — then headed back to Binghamton, N.Y., for the previously scheduled surgery. "I didn't have any pain and swelling, so the recovery was pretty quick."

Until this season, Daugavins only had one prior game of NHL experience and that was 18 months ago. But in four games with the big club this season, the 23-year-old Latvian winger has quickly established himself as a valuable addition to the Senators lineup. In particular, his penalty-killing skills are most useful for a team that ranks near the bottom of the league in that category.

"He's just been a very solid player," Senators head coach Paul MacLean said following the Senators' pre-game skate in advance of tonight's matchup with the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "In all three zones, he's done a good job. He's an experienced penalty killer, which we need some help at, and I think he just plays the game right."

What's helped the most, Daugavins said, is that he's being allowed to play the same kind of game that made him such a key contributor to the Binghamton Senators' run to the Calder Cup crown back in June. Truth be told, he's never felt so comfortable at the NHL level.

"The coach trusts me a little more ... it gives you a bit of an advantage," he said. "The style I played in the American league, I've tried to carry it over here and it helps me not (having to) change my game. I can play the same exact way I did down there and it makes it easier for me.

"I just feel like they're giving me a chance now to show my game and help the team. I just come here and try to work hard and help however I can."

The fact Daugavins knew he'd be returning to Ottawa once he recovered from dental surgery ... that just added an extra shot of confidence to the mix for the 6-1, 204-pound winger.

"It helped me mentally," said Daugavins, a third-round pick (91st overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. "I know I can recover quicker and be back, and not be nervous about if I'm ever going to get back. It feels good (knowing that). I knew I had to recover faster and be ready to play for today."

The Senators, meanwhile, are hoping to bounce back quickly from Tuesday's 5-3 road loss to the Boston Bruins and get back to the form that produced a six-game winning streak prior to that setback.

"Even when we were winning, we wanted to be better than (the level) we were playing at," said rookie defenceman Jared Cowen. "There's always a push to get better, but ever more so after the loss. I think that loss was good for us because we saw a lot of the things we need to get better at. It's funny how that happens, but we saw little things we can work on to get better than we were (during the win streak)."

In a bit of a scheduling quirk, tonight's game marks the first action for the Canadiens since last Saturday, when they doubled up on the Bruins 4-2 at the Bell Centre. The Senators hope to perhaps take advantage of a team carrying a bit of rust into the capital.

"They're rested and they haven't played in awhile, so we want to make sure we get off to a good start," said Craig Anderson, who makes the start in goal for Ottawa tonight. "Without playing, you sometimes get out of rhythm, so we want to maybe capitalize on their lack of game time."

Around the boards

After sitting out the last seven games as healthy scratch, blueliner Brian Lee returns to the Senators lineup tonight. "I'm excited," said Lee. "I'm going to play hard, enjoy it and not worry about making mistakes." ... Taking a seat in the press box is David Rundblad, but MacLean said the move is hardly a reflection of the Swedish rookie's recent play. "We said before that we wanted to monitor his ice time and his games played," said MacLean. 'Since (Rundblad) hasn't played an NHL schedule before, we want to make sure that when he plays, he's playing at a high level and not having his game take a lot of dips up and down. So we just want to make sure we keep him in a good state and he has an opportunity to work on his body and not just his game." ... Centre Zenon Konopka is tonight's other scratch for the Senators (7-6-0) ... The Habs (4-5-2) carry a three-game winning streak into tonight's game ... Ottawa is home again on Saturday, facing off against the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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