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Opportunity just right for Eaves

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
It’s the most coveted right-wing spot in the Senators lineup.

And for tonight, at least, Patrick Eaves gets his turn to ride shotgun alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.

They’ll form the Senators’ No. 1 trio against the Washington Capitals, who visit Scotiabank Place this evening for Ottawa’s home pre-season opener (7 p.m., Team 1200, Rogers Television).

Spezza, Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson formed one of the NHL’s most dangerous and productive trios in 2006-07. But head coach John Paddock showed a different hand in the morning skate Thursday, giving Eaves a chance to fly with the big boys.

Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley will line up alongside Patrick Eaves tonight at Scotiabank Place vs. the Capitals.
“(Eaves) could be the ideal linemate (for Spezza and Heatley),” said Paddock. “He’s got good skill, he can really snap the puck. There’s a real work ethic he brings and it looks like he’s picked up his skating. It’s a combination of things.”

Chris Kelly, a solid two-way player, is also likely to see some time skating with Spezza and Heatley down the road.

“It’ll probably be a little bit of a revolving thing, and it’s no secret Alfie will probably be back there at some point,” said Paddock. “We’ll see how the games play out.”

For now, though, Eaves plans to take his chance and run with it. The 23-year-old Calgary native turned in a strong effort Tuesday night in London, Ont., contributing a goal and assist toward the Senators’ 4-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

“I’m excited about (the opportunity),” said Eaves, who had a brief chance to play with his new linemates when he was an in-season callup two years ago. “We just have to work together and support each other on the ice and we’ll be fine.

“I know how they play and what I need to offer on the right side, so we’ll just pick up where we left off …You have to be quick with these guys, that’s for sure, and always be ready for the puck.”

Spezza doesn’t doubt Eaves can be a good fit.

 “I thought he played real well (Tuesday). We know he’s capable of playing with us.”

Eaves’ appearance alongside Spezza and Heatley wasn’t the only eye-opener during Thursday’s morning skate. Centre Mike Fisher, who’s been nursing a groin injury, joined the practice group for the first time in training camp. Fisher called it a most encouraging step in his recovery.

“It was good to be back out practising and in the flow of things. It beats skating by yourself,” said Fisher, who’s hopeful he’ll see some game action soon.  “It would be nice to get a few games in (before the regular season), so that’s what I’m hoping for.”

Paddock called it “a good step” for the gritty Fisher.

“We know he’s a lot closer to joining us for more of a game-like situation,” he said.

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