|Rookie defenceman Patrick Wiercioch has "come a long way" since making his debut with the Senators on March 22 in Raleigh, N.C., against the Hurricanes (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
has seen both ends of the Bingo train more than once during his rookie season of professional hockey.
The shuttle between the Ottawa Senators and their American Hockey League affiliate figures to carry him down the road to Binghamton, N.Y., a few more times in the next week. And much as the distance each way is the same, Wiercioch hasn't taken long to decide which ride always seems the shortest — and most enjoyable.
"It's a lot easier coming up, that's for sure," Wiercioch said with a grin and an eye toward tonight's matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "Any time you get the call, you get excited and any time you go down, you're disappointed. You've just got to take it the right way, I guess."
With Erik Karlsson
and Sergei Gonchar
both likely done for the season, the Senators recalled Wiercioch and Andre Benoit today to fill the void against the Flyers. Both are no doubt headed right back to Binghamton for Wednesday night's game against the Syracuse Crunch, with the B-Sens in position to secure an AHL playoff berth with a win. Then it's likely back to Ottawa again in time for Thursday's visit by the Montreal Canadiens to Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).
It's a wearying pace, indeed. But in Wiercioch's eyes, it's merely part of the price that needs to be paid to push him closer to steady employment in the NHL. After making his Senators debut on March 22 in Raleigh, N.C., against the Hurricanes, his first recall lasted seven games before he was returned to Binghamton for Sunday's road game against the Albany Devils.
Wiercioch's growth curve, Senators head coach Cory Clouston said, has been significant during the short time he's spent in Ottawa so far.
"He’s coming along. He's much better since Game 1 (against Carolina)," Clouston said of Wiercioch, the Senators' second-round pick (42nd overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. "I’m not going to say there’s been a consistent climb. He’s had a few peaks and valleys, but he’s come a long way. He’s shown in the next year or two, he’s going to be a good defenceman for this hockey club. He just has to get bigger and stronger and be a little bit more aggressive. Those are things a young defenceman has to learn and progress as he gets older."
"I’ve had an outstanding opportunity up here, especially with the coaches getting me into the right situations with the right players. I think the development over the past 10 days has been more than the entire season put together." - Patrick Wiercioch
No classroom has provided a better learning environment than the one Wiercioch is now in.
"I’ve had an outstanding opportunity up here, especially with the coaches getting me into the right situations with the right players," said the 20-year-old from Maple Ridge, B.C. "I can’t complain. I think the development over the past 10 days has been more than the entire season put together. The offence is there, I’ve just got to find it and go from there."
Everything that happens now is pointed toward the fall, when Wiercioch hopes to earn the roster spot that eluded him at the start of this season. But he knows nothing is guaranteed, with Swedish prospect David Rundblad and 2009 first-round pick Jared Cowen
also in that mix.
"If it was up to me, I'd be up here, right?" said Wiercioch. "We'll see. They've got a lot of young defencemen in this organization and a lot of guys have been doing well this past year. It'll come down to training camp next year to see who's the best fit for a spot on this roster."Around the boards
Also recalled from Binghamton for tonight's game is forward Roman Wick. While Colin Greening
has made a big impression and scored two goals in last Thursday's win over the Florida Panthers, the decision was made to save him for Wednesday's key game for the B-Sens. After arriving home from Florida, Greening was sent down to Binghamton and played games there on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. "He ended up playing four games in four nights," said Clouston. "Today would have been five in six, so we're going to give (Greening) one more day off. There's a good chance Colin will play the last couple of games for us." ... Senators forward Nick Foligno
is taking a pass on representing the United States at a third straight world hockey championship, choosing instead to stay home and get an early start on working out for his next season in Ottawa. He also has a July 15 wedding to Janelle Forest in the works. "I want to be more consistent," he said. "It comes with doing the work in the gym as well as on the ice. It's kind of a mental break as well."