Following today's practice at Canadian Tire Centre, Sens head coach D.J. Smith met with the media to discuss his impeding return to Toronto for the season opener tomorrow night, some thoughts on his expectations for the players and team this year and more...
His excitement for the season opener against the Maple Leafs:
Being a Canadian kid, it's two Canadian teams in Toronto. Can't get better than that.
Returning to Toronto for the first time since joining the Sens:
It's more about the opportunity to be a head coach in the National Hockey League. It's certainly special to go back and play against Toronto but I don't know if it's any more special just because of the fact that I know a few guys over there. For me, I'm just excited to get this chapter started.
On tomorrow's game being used as a potential measuring stick:
You always want to see where you're at but it's 82 games so you don't want to put too much pressure on one game. They are certainly a team that is well on the rise and it's well documented what the expectations are for their team. We have our own expectations for ourselves and we have to get better every day so there's nothing better than playing against an upper-echelon team.
Update on his roster for tomorrow:
We're going to decide as a staff here today and will probably know by the morning. No "for sures" right now.
On Jean-Gabriel Pageau centering Filip Chlapik and Scott Sabourin:
Well I think Pageau can play with anyone. Certainly he's not going to play fourth line minutes. He's our #1 guy off the bench on the penalty kill, he's on at the end of games and he's on at the end of periods. He can play centre and I can move a guy to the wing so he's starting there and he's certainly responsible and can take care of those guys but at the same point I have to make sure I take care of him and give him enough ice time.
On how he wants to see his team play this season:
Hard. Hard every night. Competitive…we don't give you an inch. You just know when you play us that it's going to be a hard game physically.
On his hopes for Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk's development this season:
I think you're going to see significant progress by the end. You're going to see them be a lot more detailed. Right now, they're just playing on talent and raw will. I think as they get older you'll see not just those guys but all the young players, they get more detailed in their game. They start to understand the game a little more, they manage their energy a little bit better and I think you'll see that by the end of the year.
On what Sabourin will go through playing in his first career NHL game:
It's a really good story that he'll be playing tomorrow night. For a guy that was on a PTO here to try out and hasn't been on an NHL contract in 2 or 3 years…a lot of guys would have folded up. A lot of guys would say that it's time to look for a job. You're bouncing around in the minors, fighting and doing all these things and he stayed with it. Here he is about to play his first NHL game so it's a great story and it's great that we're able to give him this opportunity. Now he has to go out there and prove he belongs but he has all the confidence from us that he can do it.
On the contributions he's hoping to get from some of the ex-Leafs this season:
Big time on the ice during games but for a guy like Ron Hainsey it's in practices. When you see him talking to Brannstrom, I don't have to go over and talk to him. There are times in the game where I might be coming down to talk to Chabot and he kind of looks at me like "I got it" and those are invaluable times. Players listen to players before anyone, especially a guy that's been around a long time and won a Stanley Cup so it's invaluable for me to have a guy like that that can help these young defencemen. Nikita Zaitsev and Connor Brown are going to lead by how hard they work in practice, how hard they work in games and how competitive they are. It's one game tomorrow and they'll just turn the page and work every day. I think that's a big reason why we got them here.
On Craig Anderson getting the first start in goal of the season:
I think he's been a really good goalie his whole career. Last year, I think he probably got overplayed a little bit and I just think he was really good through exhibition. I think I've communicated that we're going to share a lot of the starts but I just feel Andy was a bit better in training camp and in exhibition. He's an experienced guy on the road and I think it's just better for our guys.