by Todd Anderson
Ottawa Senators centre Chris Kelly is looking forward to his second year in the NHL in 2006-07. The Toronto native enjoyed a fine rookie campaign last season that saw him score 10 goals and 30 points. One area Kelly excelled in was penalty killing alongside the speedy Antoine Vermette.
"It took us a bit to gel but, especially on the PK, it became pretty natural between us," Kelly says of the experience playing with Vermette. "We knew what we were both going to do. It seemed to work well. Last year I came in and wasn't too sure if I would make the team. During the first quarter of the season I was pretty nervous and maybe I didn't know exactly what was expected from me. As the year went on I became more comfortable and confident. This season I want to continue to work on the little things that makes good players great."
After a strong NHL debut, Kelly entered this off-season as a restricted free agent. Looking back at his contract negotiations this summer, as well as those of other Ottawa Senators teammates, he's impressed how management treated the players. Each player scheduled for arbitration was signed before that process began.
"Not going to arbitration is a bonus," Kelly said from his London-area home last week. "For me, it's great to get another year here. Management has been nothing but great to me and I'm confident other players feel the same way. There's no bad blood when you avoid arbitration and I think that's huge."
When last season came to an end, Kelly and Vermette, who played together with American Hockey League-affiliate Binghamton in 2004-05 as well, traveled to Las Vegas for a few days to play golf. Kelly has also made several day trips to Toronto and Bowmanville this summer to visit family and friends.
The centre's main focus has been getting ready for another hockey season, however. Kelly continues to work out in the gym and plans to increase his on-ice training this week.
"I'm going to skate a bit more now. I'm looking forward to getting back (to Ottawa). I'm looking forward to a good season and playoffs. I'm going to be get back in Ottawa in late August like most of the other guys."