|Brian Lee has returned to the Senators lineup on emergency recall to help fill the void caused by the knee injury suffered by veteran blueliner Jason Smith (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images).
He arrives back in Ottawa admittedly humbled and probably a little bit wiser about what it will take to carve out a permanent home in the National Hockey League.
Brian Lee will be back in the Ottawa Senators' lineup tonight at Scotiabank Place, when the Toronto Maple Leafs pay their final visit of the season to the nation's capital (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). The rookie defenceman was brought up on emergency recall from the Binghamton Senators after Jason Smith went down Saturday night with a sprained knee that head coach Cory Clouston said is likely to keep the veteran blueliner out for "probably a couple of weeks."
For Lee, it's his first appearance in an Ottawa uniform since Feb. 26, when the San Jose Sharks scored a pair of power-play goals on his double minor en route to a 2-1 victory. The Senators demoted him to their American Hockey League affiliate the next day.
"I felt like I cost our team the game and it was probably deserving to send me there for awhile (for) some punishment," Lee said after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "But it's good to be back and I've put it behind me.
"You feel real bad afterwards. You feel like you let your team down. But the sun came up the next day and you move on."
You also file it away as a valuable lesson learned, too. The second half of Lee's double minor that night against the Sharks was assessed for unsportsmanlike conduct, something else Lee has definitely put behind him.
"Things can humble you and really knock you back and make you realize where you stand," said Lee. "I just want to play hard and continually get better every game and get more confident and more comfortable being back here. Just play the way I know I can."
That fits right in with the advice Clouston offered up for his young defenceman.
"(Lee) just needs to use his strength and his speed," he said. "He's got to move his feet and be a little more assertive. He's skilled, he moves the puck well and he skates well and that's what he has to use."
Meanwhile, the Senators expect another stern test from a Leafs team that is 5-2-3 in its last 10 outings and holds a five-point edge over Ottawa in the Eastern Conference standings. The Senators are 1-2-1 against their provincial rivals this season.
"They play a very aggressive style that we've had trouble with," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
. "Youv'e got to make sure that you start well against them and don't give them anything easy."
"Things can humble you and really knock you back and make you realize where you stand. I just want to play hard and continually get better every game and get more confident and more comfortable being back here. Just play the way I know I can." - Brian Lee
Early leads have been a big help for the Senators in victories over the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers in their last two starts.
"We've got to get off to a good start like we had the last couple of games and sustain that," said Clouston. "We've got match (Toronto's) work ethic. This is a team that works very hard. Even though they lost to Edmonton (on Saturday night), they generated a lot of offence and played very hard, so we know they're going to be hungry tonight."
While the Senators were expecting to face former teammate Martin Gerber tonight – he was claimed on waivers by the Leafs last week – word leaked out this morning that Curtis Joseph will be the Toronto starter. He backstopped the Leafs to a 4-3 overtime victory on Feb. 28, the last time the two teams met at Scotiabank Place.
"(Joseph) played well against us the last time and maybe we expected (to see him again) a little bit," said Senators centre Jason Spezza
. "They've kind of had our number this year, so we want to have a better showing against them tonight."
Senators looking good with Karlsson
The "steal" of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft will be the real deal when he eventually suits up for the Senators. So said TSN hockey analyst Pierre McGuire during the final Sens Fans First season-ticket and suite holder luncheon at Scotiabank Place earlier today.
McGuire believes Senators fans will be more than pleased when Swedish defenceman Erik Karlsson
, the team's top pick in the 2008 draft, arrives in the capital. Karlsson was ranked seventh by The Hockey News
in its just-released Future Watch list of the top 50 NHL prospects.
"That may have been the steal of the draft last year," McGuire said of Karlsson, the 15th overall pick. "He can play (in the NHL) right now. They've just got to get him signed but he can play right now. Think (Detroit Red Wings blueliner) Brian Rafalski with more offensive upside than Rafalski. He's a good player."
Also part of the guest panel at the luncheon were Clouston, newly-acquired Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire and Ottawa 67's head coach/GM Brian Kilrea.Around the boards
Brian Elliott (9-4-3), a winner in his last two outings, makes his third straight start for the Senators tonight ... Forward Chris Neil
(lacerated calf) skated with the team today and Clouston said it's possible he might be ready for game action by the weekend ... Defenceman Filip Kuba
was held out of this morning's practice because of illness and Clouston said "we're not sure he'll be ready tonight. We'll wait and see." ... Fewer than 1,000 tickets are left for tonight's game, while 1,500 remain for Wednesday's visit by the Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).