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Hoffman's holiday plans take detour with callup

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Mike Hoffman's holiday plans were delayed by his callup to the Ottawa Senators, but it's a tradeoff the Kitchener, Ont., will gladly take as he makes his NHL debut tonight (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

For Mike Hoffman, it should have been the same kind of weekend about to be savoured by so many others across the land.

A little Christmas holiday time with family and friends before getting back to work.

But the 22-year-old was barely an hour into his drive home to Kitchener, Ont., when his holiday plans took an abrupt. But one the former Quebec Junior Hockey League scoring star will tell you is definitely worth it in the end.

"I was going home for Christmas holidays, but I'd much rather be here," Hoffman told reporters earlier today in Raleigh, N.C., where he'll make his National Hockey League debut for the Ottawa Senators tonight in a matchup with the homestanding Hurricanes (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

With both Peter Regin (shoulder) and Jesse Winchester (concussion) shelved by injury, the Sens have summoned Hoffman from the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League to help fill the void. The 5-11, 176-pound centre was 45 minutes into drive from the Southern Tier to southwestern Ontario when "I got the call to turn around, pick up my gear and head up to Ottawa."

A fifth-round pick (130th overall) by Ottawa in the 2009 NHL Entry, Hoffman came to the organization with a well-earned reputation for offence, having scored 98 goals in his final two QMJHL seasons with the Drummondville Volitgeurs and Saint John Sea Dogs. He earned league MVP honours in the latter campaign.

It's that offensively ability that Hoffman flashed during two pre-season games with the Senators — he also currently rates among the B-Sens' top scorers with seven goals and 17 points in 32 games — that's earning him a look tonight.

"We’re excited for him," said Senators head coach Paul MacLean. "He showed some great speed during the exhibition season and he’s worked hard in Binghamton. That team has struggled, along with him, but he does bring an awful lot of speed to his game and if he can bring that to us tonight and that energy of playing in his first game, it’s going to help the team a lot."

This opportunity is one that Hoffman hardly takes lightly, and he'll do what he can to chip in.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "I had a few exhibition games so far and I just want to take the experience I got from those games and carry it into a regular-season one. It’s definitely a great opportunity for me and I’ve got to take every opportunity I can get right now.

"There hasn’t really been any talk about (linemates) tonight, but I know what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to try to be a good skater, move the puck around and try to pop one if I can ... it's a good stepping stone for me."

Around the boards

Bobby Butler's overtime-winning goal on Thursday night against the Florida Panthers ended a lengthy scoring drought for the second-year winger, who notched 10 for the Senators in just 36 games last season. Until last night, he'd only scored two in 2011-12 — both of them coming in a 3-1 road victory over the Calgary Flames on Nov. 15. MacLean said it hasn't been for lack of effort. "(Butler) has been working hard and he’s been facing some adversity in his game in the last month or two months," he said. "But he's worked real hard in practice and he’s worked real hard in the gym when he’s been out. He hasn’t been pouting … he’s been there diligently every day, working hard and shooting pucks every day. Good things happen when you shoot the puck, and we were real glad to see it go in for him last night" ... Senators blueliners have combined for a league-high 89 points so far this season ... Craig Anderson gets the start in goal tonight ... The Senators return home from the Christmas break to face the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), a night which will also feature the debut of the Bell HD Screen. Installation work began immediately after Thursday night's game.

Zibanejad sparks Swedes past Canada

Mika Zibanejad scored a pair of goals, including a clinching empty-netter with 23 seconds to go, as Sweden stunned Canada 5-3 at Edmonton's Rexall Place on Friday night in both teams' final tuneup for the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Zibanejad, the Senators' top pick (sixth overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, also scored late in the first to cap a three-goal outburst that wiped out an early 1-0 Canada lead.

Senators prospect Mark Stone (2010, sixth round, 178th overall) scored his third goal in as many pre-tournament games for Canada. The Swedish roster also includes defenceman Fredrik Claesson (2011, fifth round, 126).

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