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Greening hungry for 'surprise' NHL debut

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Colin Greening, a seventh-round pick by the Senators in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, hits the big time on Tuesday night when he makes his league debut against the Devils in New Jersey (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images).

NEWARK, N.J. — Colin Greening started his all-star break pondering a variety of dining options.

But all it took was one unexpected phone call to get the  Ottawa Senators forward prospect thinking about feeding a hunger of a different kind.

"To be honest, it was a big surprise," the 24-year-old native of St. John's said earlier today about his callup to join the Senators for Tuesday's game against the Devils at the Prudential Center (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

Greening will become the latest Binghamton Senators player to make his National Hockey League debut for the big club this season, following in the footsteps of forward Jim O'Brien and goaltender Robin Lehner, who was also been summoned to Ottawa today.

It wasn't exactly what the Cornell University grad had in mind when he and his girlfriend, Tissy, arrived in Chicago to spend the AHL all-star break. They'd barely landed in the Windy City when Greening got the call to head to Ottawa.

"She was saying to me 'where do you want to go to eat in Chicago first?' and then I'm getting this call," said Greening in recalling the frenzied events of Sunday afternoon. "So I had to tell her 'I don't think I going to be able to do that anymore.' It was just a lot of surprise. She was happy for me, but it was kind of a whirlwind. I had to get back here and get all my gear and things like that. It was an exciting time, to say the least."

Now that he's here, Greening is anxious to show the form that has allowed him to rack up 12 goals and 32 points in his rookie season of pro hockey. The 6-3, 218-pound forward was a seventh-round pick (205th overall) by the Senators in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft but after four years at Cornell — where he finished his career as the Big Red's captain — he's emerged as a prospect well worth keeping an eye on.

"He's come a long way since the start of the season," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of Greening. "He's been using his size and strength. He skates well for a big man and he's very strong. So we need him to be a physical player out there and to use his speed going to the net. We need him to use his size and strength going into the corners and around the net. And he's got more skill than people give him credit for."

While Greening admits being taking aback by the callup to the big club, he quickly points out that it's a thought he had in mind right from the season's outset.

"To be honest, I had some expectations when I came to training camp in September," he said. "I was hoping to get some NHL games this year. When you go down to the AHL, you never know what's going to happen and you kind of play it by ear a little bit. It's something that I was hoping for and I thought in my first year, if I could get some NHL experience, that would benefit me. I'm happy that it finally happened."

If all goes as planned, Greening will have his parents — who were attempting to fly in from the Rock tonight — and girlfriend in the stands at the Prudential Center for a moment he's spent a lifetime waiting to have happen.

"I was talking to my parents last night and this was something I've dreamed about since I was five years old, when I first went out on the ice and my parents said 'yeah, you could be out there' when we were watching (hockey) on TV," said Greening. "It's a bit surreal, but I'm trying to take it all in and live in the moment."

Butler shines brightest at AHL All-Star Classic

Bobby Butler of the Binghamton Senators collected a goal and three assists in earning most valuable player honours for the East in an 11-8 victory over the West at the AHL All-Star Classic on Monday night in Hershey, Pa.

B-Sens teammate Corey Locke collected a pair of assists and, with 11 career points, is now the AHL's all-time leader in all-star game scoring

Around the boards

Centre Jason Spezza (shoulder) plans to join his teammates for a four-game road trip that begins Saturday in Uniondale, N.Y., against the Islanders. And if all goes well, he'll be in the lineup that night at Nassau Coliseum. "I'm just going to see how it goes," Spezza said following a practice session at the Bell Sensplex that saw him able to work on faceoffs. "The practices after the Detroit game (on Tuesday) will probably tell me if I'm able to play on the weekend or not. I'll definitely be making the road trip with the guys and whenever I'll (be able) to play ... it'll be just how I feel. But I'm itching to get back, for sure." ... The Red Wings pay their lone visit of the season to Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).

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