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Game on for Senators prospects

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Now the serious evaluation truly begins for the players hoping to land one of the few precious roster spots available in the Ottawa Senators lineup.

The Senators hit the ice tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers in London, Ont. (7 p.m., Team 1200, Rogers Television), one of seven pre-season games they’ll play before the regular season starts Oct. 3. Every one of them will be a key tool head coach John Paddock and his staff will use to finalize the lineup they’ll ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs on opening night.

After more than three days of practices and workouts, the players who’ll suit up tonight are itching for some real game action.

“I think everybody likes to play games,” Paddock said after a brisk workout at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday morning. “Everybody wants to play against other teams and the other sweater, so I’m sure everybody is looking forward to it.

“It gives them an opportunity to show where they stand in the organization.”

The wait is finally over for Senators prospects, who are eager to show their stuff against the Philadelphia Flyers in pre-season action tonight in London, Ont.
Paddock admits there aren’t many roster spots open, “One, maybe two at the very most.” Among those looking to earn a place are an interesting mix of wily veterans and eager rookies, all of whom get a big chance to showcase their talents tonight.

In the latter group is Nick Foligno, the Senators’ top pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft. There has been plenty of camp buzz about the son of former NHLer Mike Foligno, who realizes the opportunity that is now at hand.

“I’m going to go out there and do what they ask,” said Foligno, 19. “They want to see me be a hard-working, grinding kind of player and that’s what I’m going to show them. That’s why I’m here, and I want to prove I can do that at this level.

“This is my first chance to do that tonight, and I’m going to go in there and really work and show (the coaching staff) what I’m all about.”

Then there’s 19-year NHL veteran Luke Richardson, who’s hoping his experience and leadership can make an impact on the Senators blue line corps.

“I think it’s key to pass along knowledge and be a little bit of a calming influence,” said Richardson, 38. “I think it’s something I can do, not only now in the exhibition games, but all year long.”

Paddock likes what he’s seen out of Richardson so far.

“I think he’s been real solid,” said Paddock. “He’s been everything that we could have asked for so far on the ice … We knew his experience and his leadership was going to be important.”

Richardson, an Ottawa native, got swept up the Senators’ drive to the Stanley Cup final last spring and was happy to sign with his hometown team as a free agent. Now he wants to prove he can offer something to assist in another long post-season run.

“Exhibition games, to me, are an opportunity to show what I can do,” said Richardson. “I think everybody’s seen me do it before, but I just have to make sure everybody realizes what I can still do ... I think I can help the organization and I hope they see that, too.”

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