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Petersson back on track for Sens at rookie tourney

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward prospect Andre Petersson couldn't be happier to be playing in the NHL rookie tournament in Oshawa, Ont. The 21-year-old Swede has been plagued by back woes for two years, but finally feels healthy and ready to make the move to North America (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

OSHAWA, Ont. — Andre Petersson is having the time of his life at the General Motors Centre.

Never mind that the Senators prospect has hit the scoresheet in both of Ottawa's victories so far at the National Hockey League rookie tournament here, or that he's found an easy fit alongside fellow Swede Mika Zibanejad and Shane Prince. All of that is merely is bonus for Petersson, whose pain-filled ride over the last two years finally appears to be over.

"I’ve been struggling for two years with my back," said Petersson, a fourth-round pick (109th overall) by the Senators in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. "This is the first time in two years I’ve been able to play two games without feeling any back pain, so I’m really happy about it."

Petersson, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Sunday, shut down his season with HV 71 of the Swedish Elite League in January and made his way to Ottawa to work with the Senators medical staff. He's been astonished by the progress he's made in the last six months.

"I haven’t been happier," said Petersson, a native of Olofstrom, Sweden. "It’s amazing that I could go 1-1/2 years with this pain and then the past six months have been this much better. It has been really tough. When you’re out there, you can’t skate 100 per cent. It’s been an awful two years, but I’m really happy about (playing) two games without any pain at all."

Petersson has so much faith in the Senators staff that he's decided the time is right for him to make the move to North America. He's eager to get started in that direction.

"It just feels right," he said. "I came over here (earlier this year) and they started to fix my back over the last six months. I really trust the guys in Ottawa."

Binghamton Senators head coach Kurt Kleinendorst, who's likely to have Petersson in his lineup when the Calder Cup champions begin their American Hockey League title defence next month, will surely welcome him with open arms. Already, he's a big fan of Petersson's skill set.

"We’ve said all along that he may be our most skilled player," said Kleinendorst, who's running the bench for the Sens rookies at the Oshawa tournament. "He’s got all the skills that you need to be a good hockey player. He skates well, he handles the puck well. His work ethic (Sunday) was outstanding. I thought he turned it up another notch. He shoots the puck very well. He’s quick.

"Honestly, I don’t know that you could watch him play and look for skills and say that he’s got a weakness at anything. Not that he can’t get better — of course, he can — but he does everything very well."

With plenty of Swedes in the Senators organization already on this side of the pond, Petersson will have all the help he needs in making the transition. Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson is a long-time friend who often raves about Petersson's talent, while captain Daniel Alfredsson was one of his boyhood heroes.

"(Alfredsson) is a great star in the NHL and I’ve always looked up to him since I was a little kid," said the 5-9, 172-pound Petersson, who drew comparisons to one of Sweden's greatest hockey exports when he was first drafted. "We have the same kind of style on the ice, but he’s a bit stronger. I know I have to work on that. It’s an honour to be compared to him."

Meanwhile, Petersson hopes to have a big hand in the action on Tuesday night, when the Senators go for a clean sweep at the rookie tournament in their final matchup against the host Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., Rogers TV, Team 1200). The game winner will also secure top honours for the tournament.

"I played my last game at the beginning of January, so I kind of have to start all over again," said Petersson. "But it feels pretty good. The first game (Saturday's 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins) was not that good. I couldn’t do much at all. But the last game (a 6-5 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday) was better and I know it’s going to be even better tomorrow."

B-Sens, Bulldogs set to square off at Scotiabank Place on Nov. 13

Scotiabank Place announced today that it will play host to an American Hockey League matchup between the Calder Cup-champion B-Sens and the Hamilton Bulldogs, the primary affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, on Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. It's the third straight season the two teams will meet in Ottawa, with the Bulldogs having won the previous two. Tickets for the game, priced at $19 and $12, go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. 

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