|Forward Chris Neil has emerged as a leader for the Ottawa Senators.|
by Todd Anderson
With hard work, determination and a passion to be the best he can be, Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil has emerged into a leader whom his teammates can look up to in a variety of situations. After a career season in 2005-06, the five-year veteran continues to impress with his consistent effort. OttawaSenators.com sat down with the Flesherton, Ont., native to discuss his transformation into a solid NHL player.
OS.com: This season you've continued right where you left off a year ago, producing key goals for the Senators. What has been the main reason behind your emergence as a scorer the last two seasons?
CN: When you play more, you gain more confidence. It definitely helps when you have a coaching staff that will throw you out there (on the ice), and if you make the odd mistake, you know they'll still put you back on the ice.
OS.com: You've become a leader for the club on and off of the ice. In what areas do you look to lead?
CN: When I come to the rink I try to get the emotion up, get the guys fired up. I've been here a while and I do consider myself a leader. We just have to go out as a team and play as a team.
OS.com: You have been the NHL's leader in hits for most of this season. How important is it to establish physical play in the NHL today?
CN: For me, I have to continue to play physically. It's what got me to the NHL. I have to go to the net hard and I have to finish my checks. If I don't do that, I might as well not be playing. You have to keep hitting because it might not pay off in the first period, but it eventually opens some ice and it might cause opposing defencemen to turn over the puck.
OS.com: You signed a new contract with the Senators in the off-season. What did it mean to you to know you would be returning to Ottawa this season?
CN: I've spent my whole career with this great organization and I want to try to do whatever I can to be here a long time. It's a great city and the fans are great, too. It's a hockey city and fans know their stuff. They want a winning team and each year we have a chance to win the cup. Since I've been here, we continue to get better and better.