A theme from March for the Ottawa Senators has been the continued development of the blueline in spite of the absence of Erik Karlsson
. With the reigning Norris Trophy winner on the shelf, the Sens have enjoyed steady play from the likes of veterans Sergei Gonchar
, Chris Phillips
and Marc Methot
while seeing continued development from Patrick Wiercioch
and Eric Gryba
Since Wiercioch scored his first goal on March 3 against the Islanders, he has been playing with a visible level of confidence and flair that have made why he was so successful in the AHL obvious to anyone. Now, after scoring his first NHL goal this past Saturday, Gryba may be the next to see similar progress after making strides in recent games. He sees it as just another indication things are trending in the right direction.
"It's a step in the right direction, but it's a process to get where I want to be and where the coaches want me to be. Every day's a battle," said Gryba.
Over the past handful of games, Gryba's play has been visibly improved from his first few in the NHL. He is moving the puck effectively, clearing his zone and bringing a physicality expected of a player with his frame and skillset. The difference has been the result of hard work and getting the time in to learn.
"It's a confidence thing as well as repetitions in practice. It's a different league, you can't hold the puck as long as I could in the American League so it's a matter of breaking old habits and stuff like that," said Gryba. "It's been a lot of work with the coaches and video and extra time after practice."
There is no shortage of resources available to him within the organization. His extra time in practice working with Scouting and Development Consultant Jason Smith, among others, has made Gryba's play on the ice a clear benefactor. Smith, who captained Edmonton and Philadelphia over the span of 1,000 NHL games, played a very similar style to Gryba and has a lot of insight to offer the young blueliner.
"It's awesome. He came down to Binghamton a lot. We have Luke Richardson down in Binghamton and now Smitty here. Having those guys, it's like a well of knowledge, especially for me. My game is very similar to theirs so it's nice to have guys like that who can give insight," said Gryba.
The on-ice resources have been just as valuable for him as well.
"You have such legendary guys here. I mean, Gonchar, Phillips. Methot is so solid too. They're all great guys to watch and learn from."
The Sens can take some solace knowing that they have another defender capable of logging big minutes in the franchise in Gryba going forward. While most defenders would be 'protected' against tougher opponents, he has found a way to swim after being thrown into the team's top pairing alongside Methot.
Now, with the first goal out of the way, Gryba's focus is keeping his play at a high level.
"I think consistency is a big thing. You can't have one or two big games and then a bad one, you don't want that. For every eight good games you play you want maybe one not-so-good game. I want to continue to build on the good games in a row."
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