With the game hanging in the balance, the Ottawa Senators turned loose their newest wrecking ball around the net.
And Colin Greening delivered exactly what his teammates needed.
Given an opportunity to see some power-play time in the late going of Tuesday night's matchup against the Wild at Scotiabank Place, the bruising 6-3, 212-pound forward went about creating some serious havoc in front of Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom. The eventual result? Greening notched the game-tying goal in the third period and the Senators went on to edge the Wild 4-3 in a shootout, earning their first win of the season.
While veteran forward Chris Neil's dominant physical play had the biggest hand in bringing the Senators back from a 3-1 deficit, team management no doubt nodded their approval at the grind-it-out moment that Greening enjoyed at a key moment in the game. It's exactly the kind of impact they feel the 25-year-old native of St. John's, N.L., can make on a regular basis.
"We all said if you are a hard player to play against, you’ll create more space and you’ll be a lot more effective," said Randy Lee, the Senators' director of hockey operations and player development. "There’s lots of skilled players in the league, but he’s such a physical specimen that he’s hard to control, he’s intimidating, he can hurt guys on the forecheck and he creates lots of space for himself and his wingers.
"If he plays that way, he has a chance to be more than a good player. That’s what Bryan (Murray, the Senators' general manager) has told him, that’s what Kurt (Kleinendorst, the Binghamton Senators' head coach) has told him, that’s what I’ve told him. His teammates like playing with him because he’s got speed and decent hands."
Greening, a bright lad with a Cornell education, is more than smart enough to see it, too. The dirty areas in front of the net aren't exactly for the faint of heart, but he's willing to set up shop there — especially if it means playing important minutes, such as power-play situations.
"Until they tell me to stop going to the front of the net, that's exactly what I'm going to be doing," said Greening, who notched a pair of goals in the Senators' first three games of the season. "I want to be able to provide a good (scoring) option as well. There are other aspects to it besides just being in front of the net but, if you kind of break everything down, that's what my job is.
"I'm built for that area. I consider myself to be a pretty good shape, and I can take the hacks and the whacks and the bangs. You've got to be able to take it. There's a certain mentality that goes along with it as well. I don't have the skill set a Jason Spezza has, so if that's what it takes to get on the power play, that's fine with me. I spent four years there in college doing the same type of stuff. For me, it's nothing new and something I can thrive at."
Ask around the Senators camp and you'll find Greening is probably underestimating his physical stature. He's one of the best-conditioned athletes on the team.
"(Greening) is one of the best physical specimens we have and it’s hockey strength," said Lee. "It’s very functional and he can apply it on the ice. It’s not beach body strength, so you can see when he leans on a guy or cuts to the net, he can keep his feet up and cuts in hard. You can see down low on the cycle, he’s really hard to control."
Senators head coach Paul MacLean likes what he's seen out of Greening so far this season.
"We wanted him to be a big, physical ... he fits the description of a power forward," said MacLean. "And I think he’s been that, so he hasn't disappointed us."
He's also proven to be someone who's adaptable in many roles. During the B-Sens' run to the Calder Cup playoff crown last season, Greening would see time on the team's top line one night, then might have find himself playing with energy players on a third or fourth line the next.
"I never was on the power play last year," said Greening, a seventh-round pick (204th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. "Kurt had his guys that were very, very effective and it showed in the playoffs, when we had clutch PP goals. We had the right personnel for our power play and the particular power play he wanted to run so, for me, it was nice to be able to watch those guys and try to learn from them.
"Would I have liked some PP time down there? Yes, but at the end of the day, I knew what was best for the team."
Around the boards
MacLean suggested he's contemplating a lineup change or two for Thursday night's matchup with the Colorado Avalanche (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) at Scotiabank Place. But in the same breath, he admitted it'll be tough to stray from the hand that produced Tuesday's win over the Wild. "Historically, you don’t break up a team that wins a game, so I would probably lean toward that (direction) at this point," he said ... Expect Craig Anderson to be back between the pipes for a fourth straight game. It'll be his first start against the Avs since they shipped him to Ottawa back in February and MacLean hinted strongly he isn't likely to deny his No. 1 stopper that start ... The Senators will debut their new heritage jerseys on Thursday ... Fewer than 1,200 tickets remain for the game.