|Binghamton callup Jim O'Brien gets another chance to make an impression on Senators management tonight, when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Scotiabank Place (Claus Anderson/Getty Images).
For the Ottawa Senators, there's still a lot more on the line than two points these days.
Every game, it might be said, is a step toward bigger days ahead somewhere down the road. Especially for the young prospects now dotting the team's roster, several of whom maybe didn't expect to get this kind of opportunity so soon.
But that being said, they're just as eager to seize the moment now that it's at hand.
"Every time you step on the ice, it's an audition," said forward Jim O'Brien
, who's rejoining the Senators for tonight's matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "There's always people watching the games, whether it be up here or in Binghamton. Every game, you should be treating it like an audition."
Those "people," of course, would be Senators team management, which will have plenty of holes to fill on the roster heading into next season in the wake of a series of trades that set the franchise on a new course for the future. All of which has opened the eyes of players such as O'Brien, Erik Condra
, Colin Greening
and Bobby Butler
, each of them eyeing a more full-time role in Ottawa sooner rather than later.
"The goal is to come up here and play in the NHL and when you're up here, you've got to make the most of it," said Condra, whose two-goal game in New Jersey a week ago allowed the Senators to start off their just-completed road trip with a 2-1 victory.
Indeed, what has been most uplifting for head coach Cory Clouston is that the kids have done more than bring youthful enthusiasm to the table. They're helping the Senators win, too. Ottawa won three of four on the road before returning to Scotiabank Place, where a three-game homestand begins tonight against the Penguins.
"We’re playing good hockey right now," Clouston said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "The young guys are that are up here, they’re taking it seriously. They’re coming up with something to gain. They want to try to prove something. Same with the guys who have been here (previously). They’re trying to move forward, they’re trying to move this organization in the right direction and they’re trying to show they can play well and help this team win."
And with each game, the young talent settles in just a little bit more.
"The young guys, it took awhile," admitted Clouston. "I think Bobby’s an example. The first nine games, he didn’t have a point and I think he was minus-11 or 12. Since the second recall, he’s been very good for us. Guys like Greening and Condra, it took four or five games for them to really step in and be effective.
"They’ve really bought in and they’re understanding more and more each day what they need to do and what they have to do to stay at this level. I think the guys have really come a long way."
Not that the newness or excitement of it all has worn off yet. That's most noticeable any time one of them finds the back of the net and has cause to celebrate a goal.
"I guess I don't realize what's gone on yet," said Condra, a seventh-round pick (211th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. "I haven't really sat back and thought about it. Once you're in the locker room and in the game, it's just like any other game. But when you sit back and realize what's going on around you, you're in awe. It's unbelievable."Around the boards
Along with O'Brien, the Senators also summoned defenceman Andre Benoit from their American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton for tonight's game. The B-Sens don't see action again until Wednesday night in Glens Falls, N.Y., against the Adirondack Phantoms ... Craig Anderson
(6-3-0, 1.81 GAA, .946) makes his 11th start in goal for the Senators tonight ... In addition to carrying tonight's game, Sportsnet will also provide coverage of the annual Roger's House Telethon beginning at 6:30 p.m. Click here
to learn how you can lend a hand to this worthy cause ... The Senators' homestand continues Thursday night, when the New Jersey Devils
visit Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). The Tampa Bay Lightning
are here Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).