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Donovan senses a Sens rebound

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
He’s a 13-year National Hockey League veteran with plenty of miles on his skates.

But Shean Donovan sounds a bit like a giddy young rookie when he talks about what he envisions as a season of redemption for the Ottawa Senators.

In a radio interview with Team 1200, the 33-year-old Donovan said there’s already a steely resolve within the team to atone for the disappointing finish to the 2007-08 season that saw the Senators swept out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins. It wasn’t exactly the ending a team that made the Cup final the year before saw coming when it was riding high atop the Eastern Conference in mid-January.

“We’ve had a lot of success here during the regular season and last year, you could say, was a perfect storm of things that didn’t work out the way we wanted them to,” said Donovan, who signed a two-year contract with the Senators earlier this week that will keep him in the city he now calls home. “There’s too much talent and too much skill here (for that to happen).

“Everybody was disappointed. There wasn’t one guy on our team who was happy with their season and happy with the way things went. Everybody knows it’s time to get working here (in the summer) and get ready for (next) season. I know everybody I talk to is just excited about everything … Next year, I think everybody’s going to be refreshed.”

The Senators aren’t likely to pre-season darlings in the mind of any of the “experts” this fall and that’s just fine with Donovan, who believes they’ll thrive on it all.

“The guys are mad about last season, not just disappointed,” said Donovan. “We just want to get back to where we know we should be and (being) the kind of team we know we are. Everything that’s happened this summer has been positive and the guys are just hungry for next season to get going.

“Everybody’s going to have a chip on their shoulder and now we’re going to be gunning for everybody (else). That’s a great feeling, especially with the amount of talent we have, and I just want to be a part of that because I know that’s going to be the feeling in the locker room.”

The speedy Donovan was one of the Senators’ best players down the stretch last season and hopes to fit into the same defined role under new head coach Craig Hartsburg. There has already been talk he could be matched with new acquisition Jarrko Ruutu and young centre Cody Bass on an energy line of sorts.

“(When you’re) a player in my position, you want to be a part of the penalty kill and a guy who has a role,” said Donovan. “Maybe in the last minute or couple of minutes of the game, you get out to play against the other team’s better players and you get a chance to shut them down. When you have a role like that and you know you have that role, it’s a great thing because you want to contribute to the team.

“I know next year they’re going to put a lot of emphasis on that, making sure that everybody knows their role and where they fit in. And you need that. When the Sens went to the Cup final (in 2007), everybody had a role. They knew what they had to do and they did it and did a good job of it.”

With the Senators potentially icing a younger team next season, Donovan sees an opportunity to lend a veteran’s hand when it’s needed.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “They’re great kids, Nicky (Foligno) and Bass and Jesse Winchester and Brian Lee. These guys are great young players with tons of talent and they play hard every night, so it’s going to be easy. Hopefully, I can teach them whatever I’ve learned in the league, the good things, and have a good season and help them out.

“That’s what you want, you just want your young guys to progress quicker than you expect and that just helps the team win more.”

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