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O'Brien ready to answer opportunity's call

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Forward Jim O'Brien sees his latest recall to Ottawa as a chance to make a further impression on the Senators as they build their future around more of a youth movement (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images).

Opportunity is knocking — and perhaps louder than ever — in an Ottawa Senators dressing room just beginning to enter an era of change.

One more time, Jim O'Brien is eager to answer its call.

With Jesse Winchester (lower body) unable to line up against the Florida Panthers tonight at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), the Senators have given O'Brien his fourth recall of the season from the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators. This one comes on the heels of the first three-goal performance of his professional career in the B-Sens' 6-2 victory over the Charlotte Checkers on Friday night.

"It was an easy decision," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of bringing up O'Brien, who ranks third among Binghamton scorers in goals (16) and points (39). "Jimmy scored a hat trick on the weekend, so he's played well offensively."

The combination of four recent trades and a rash of injuries up front — captain Daniel Alfredsson (lower back) and Peter Regin (left shoulder) are both gone for awhile yet — has opened the door for a number of callups from the farm. With the Senators also committed to a youth movement starting next season, it's a chance for all of them to audition their talents.

"Every game you're in is an opportunity," said O'Brien, the Senators' top pick (29th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. "I'm going to show up and every game I go out there, I'm going to try to be the best I can be. You just play your game. You don't want to try to do too much. You just want to go out there and you want to play the same game that's made you successful so far."

What the Senators especially like is that each time they've returned O'Brien to Binghamton this season, he's maintained the mindset of a player focused on improvement.

"The thing I like most is that when he’s gone down there, his attitude has been in the right place and that’s allowed him to have success and continue to improve," said Clouston. "Sometimes, when guys get sent down, they tend to ... have a little bit of a lapse and he hasn’t done that. Each time he’s gone down there, he’s improved his game."

O'Brien knows it's the only approach he can take if he wants to play a significant role in the Senators' future.

"Every game you're in is an opportunity. I'm going to show up and every game I go out there, I'm going to try to be the best I can be. You just play your game. You don't want to try to do too much. You just want to go out there and you want to play the same game that's made you successful so far." - Jim O'Brien
"Every time I step on the ice, I try to go out, work my hardest to be the best player I can be, whether it be practice, a game or whatever it is," said the 22-year-old native of Maplewood, Minn. "You’re going to get nowhere if you just sit there and pout, so I try to go out there and make myself better."

Being in Ottawa with the big club surely helps that cause, he added.

"Every game up here, you learn something new every day," said O'Brien. "That's what it's all about, just learn and get better."

Meanwhile, goaltender Craig Anderson makes his home debut for the Senators tonight against one of his former teams. His teammates would no doubt take a repeat of the 47-save shutout performance he turned in against the Maple Leafs in a 1-0 victory in Toronto on Saturday night, the day after Ottawa obtained Anderson in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche.

"He was a calming presence for us," said centre Jason Spezza. "He did a good job communicating with the (defencemen). He looked real sharp and he was seeing pucks really well. Maybe we can give him a little bit of run support today and he won’t have to worry about playing as well as he played (Saturday). It was definitely an impressive debut."

Added veteran blueliner Chris Phillips: "I don’t know if we can say we expect the same but we’re hoping for it. He played great in Toronto the other night. We’d obviously like to see him play the same way. For ourselves, we don’t want to put him in that position, where he has to make 47 saves. Seeing the confidence he played with, definitely the other guys can feed off that."

Around the boards

Defenceman Chris Campoli took the pre-game skate this morning and expects to be in the lineup against the Panthers. "Barring any setbacks during the day, I’m preparing myself to play," said Campoli, who missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. "I'm probably likely to be in the lineup" ... Scott Clemmensen is expected to get the start in goal for Florida ... The Senators won the only previous meeting between the teams this season, 5-3 back on Oct. 28. They'll meet twice in Sunrise, Fla., next month (March 10 and 31) ... Ottawa next travels to Buffalo on Friday (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) before returning home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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