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Game on for Senators, Leafs in pre-season matchup

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Swiss forward Roman Wick is eager to make his NHL debut with the Senators in tonight's pre-season matchup with the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Wick is among the contenders to land a spot on the Sens' opening-night roster (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

Let the auditions officially begin at Ottawa Senators training camp.

While the double dip between the Senators and the Maple Leafs in Toronto over the next two nights might add a little fuel to the teams' provincial rivalry, bigger things are at stake for some of the hopefuls who'll be front and centre at Air Canada Centre starting this evening (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet Ontario, Team 1200).

Among that group is Roman Wick, a 24-year-old native of Switzerland who is eager to take his first steps in a National Hockey League game — even it's just a pre-season affair. Wick is being touted as a contender for a roster spot on the wing and is anxious to make a good first impression tonight.

"I'm not nervous. I'm just ready for it," said a smiling Wick when asked about suiting up in Senators colours for the first time. "I'm happy. I have a good feeling and I'm really looking forward to it. (Being) a little bit nervous is always good, but I'm happy to play."

Wick's arrival in Ottawa has been a long time in coming. A fifth-round selection (156th overall) by the Senators in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft — the same draft that also yielded current Ottawa forward Peter Regin — Wick played the last four season with the Kloten Flyers in the Swiss A League. It was a strong showing for his homeland at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics that made Wick believe the time was right to make his move overseas.

"I feel more confident on the ice (now)," he said. "I had a leader role with my home team in Switzerland, which really helped me over the years. And I have all my experiences over the last couple of years. I think I have everything. I have the skill, the skating and the size (he's 6-2 and weighs 192 pounds).

"The big difference between European players and North American guys is all in the head, where they are really strong. It's just a process to get into that (mindset) and once you have that, the confidence will go up and when you have all the confidence on the ice, that's the best thing."

"I think I have everything. I have have the skill, the skating and the size. The big difference between European players and North American guys is all in the head, where they are really strong. It's just a process to get into that (mindset) and once you have that, the confidence will go up and when you have all the confidence on the ice, that's the best thing." - Roman Wick
That mental strength figures to get its first real test tonight.

"You've got to stay cool in your head and really believe in yourself," said Wick. "Everybody knows what we can do — we should it every day out there — and tonight will be the same, just with fans."

Also getting a chance to make an early statement in his quest for a job is big blueliner Jared Cowen, the Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The native of Allan, Sask., saw two games worth of pre-season action a year ago but was still on the mend from major knee surgery.

"I'm pretty excited about it," said Cowen, 19. "Last year I was more nervous because I was coming back from the knee (injury). This year, I'm more excited to get into some more regular-type games ... You want to impress the coaches but at the same time, I think keeping it simple is the one way you can keep them impressed.

"Limiting mistakes is the biggest part. If you have zero mistakes out there, that's the best thing you can do."

Around the boards

Robin Lehner, the Swedish stopper who's considered the organization's top goaltending prospect, will play the full 60 minutes against the Leafs tonight, with Brian Elliott dressing as the backup. "It's fun to play the whole game," said Lehner. "It's also easier to get in after warmup and play the first half (of the game). Last year, I played two second halves (in pre-season) and it's more mentally tough. Tonight, I can just go out and do my thing." Added head coach Cory Clouston: "We hope he'll play well. He's a big, good goaltender and he's had a real solid camp so far." ... Mike Brodeur was scheduled to split tonight's game in goal but was scratched with what Clouston termed "food poisoning or the flu. We're not sure which one." ... The Senators reduced their camp roster to 48 players today, assigning forwards Jakub Culek (Rimouski Oceanic) and Mark Stone (Brandon Wheat Kings) back to their junior teams. Both were 2010 NHL Entry Draft picks ... Tonight's game is only available to viewers whose TV providers are offering NHL Centre Ice pre-season games. Bell TV digital customers have access to a Centre Ice free preview at the moment ... TSN has Wednesday's rematch between the teams at the ACC, also a 7 p.m. start.

*****
The Senators roster for tonight's game against the Leafs:

Goaltenders: Robin Lehner, Brian Elliott.

Defence: Andre Benoit, Chris Campoli, Matt Carkner, Jared Cowen, David Hale, Brian Lee.

Forwards: Bobby Butler, Nick Foligno, Mike Hoffman, Ryan Keller, Chris Kelly, Corey Locke, Chris Neil, Ryan Shannon, Zack Smith, Tim Spencer, Roman Wick, Jesse Winchester.


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