|Chris Kelly, in action against Buffalo during the Eastern Conference final in May, has appeared in every one of the Senators' regular-season games over the past two years. Photo: André Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC |
At the age of 26, Chris Kelly is no longer considered a new kid on the NHL block.
But that doesn’t mean the Ottawa Senators centre is resting on his laurels as the start of another training camp approaches.
“This will be my third year in the league and I’m still learning,” the Toronto native said last week as he geared up for the new season.
The six-foot, 199-pound Kelly is one of the few Senators that stuck around the nation’s capital this summer, which has been a particularly brief one given Ottawa’s run to the Stanley Cup final in June, and he could be found putting in time at a local rink or in the weight room.
“I just stuck around because it’s such a short off-season,” he said, voicing no complaints about the abbreviated layoff. “If you’re playing early into June, then you’ve done something right.”
In his first two full seasons in the NHL, Kelly, who also appeared in four games in the 2003-04 campaign, has done plenty of things right.
In 2006-07, he recorded career highs in goals (15), assists (23), points (38) and plus-minus rating (plus-28) in the regular season, during which he appeared in all 82 games for the second year in a row. In the playoffs, he appeared in all 20 games the Senators played during their run to the final, adding another three goals and four assists along the way.
It was in those weeks following Ottawa’s run that he managed to get a brief respite from the game, which gave him a little time to reflect on last season’s success.
“When you get a chance to get away from the rink for a few weeks and see what you accomplished, it was a fun year,” Kelly said.
But after that, it was back to work. With the Eastern Conference landscape changing in large part because of free agency that saw teams like the New York Rangers add big-name players such as Scott Gomez and Chris Drury from Ottawa’s traditional rivals New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres, respectively, the Senators will face new challenges.
“The East is going to be a pretty strong conference,” said Kelly, who’s already been back on skates for a few weeks as part of a group of Ottawa-area NHL players that have ice time arranged by ex-Senator and current Atlanta Thrashers centre Todd White.
With the sessions coming about thrice weekly, the group will up the number of outings to five times a week.
“We’re right into the swing of things,” said Kelly, who recently signed a new one-year contract with the Senators.
Kelly was one of three restricted free agents the Senators re-signed, along with goaltender Ray Emery and defenceman/forward Christoph Schubert, helping to ensure that Ottawa will face as little job of rebuilding as necessary as it strives to take its final step of winning the Stanley Cup.
“It was great to get as many guys back as we did from last year,” Kelly said.