|After watching the first two games from the pressbox, Senators rookie blueliner David Rundblad makes his much-anticipated NHL debut tonight against the Minnesota Wild (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
Almost from the day he first walked into his new hockey home, David Rundblad has portrayed the picture of cool.
The questions keep coming about his impending arrival in the National Hockey League — and the expectations that have gone along with it — and the 20-year-old Swede seems to deftly handle them all, responding in a calm, measured tone, often accompanied by an easy smile.
But Rundblad's emotions are beginning to churn inside heading into his NHL debut with the Ottawa Senators. And as tonight's home-opener against the Minnesota Wild (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) approaches, he acknowledges this isn't just another game.
"This is what I've been waiting for," Rundblad said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today at Scotiabank Place. "It'll be fun to finally play a game. We'll see (how I feel). I'm calm right now, but the closer it gets ... I'll probably be a little bit nervous.
"I've been here for two months and I've been looking forward to this opportunity. It's just going to be fun to be a part of it."
Rundblad, the 17th overall pick (by the St. Louis Blues) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, was acquired at the 2010 draft in the exchange for the Senators' first-rounder. His arrival in Ottawa has been highly anticipated for several months, buoyed by the fact Rundblad was named the top defenceman in the Swedish Elite League last season after helping Skelleftea reach the Elitserien final.
However, his debut has been put on hold, as head coach Paul MacLean — who currently has seven healthy blueliners at his disposal — chose to sit Rundblad for the Senators' first two games of the season because of concerns about his defensive play. But with his team in need of a win, MacLean has decided the time is right to unleash the offensively-skilled rookie.
"We've had some issues getting pucks out of our own end and being efficient with it," said MacLean. "That's something that David brings to the table — being able to move the puck and make good outlet passes to our forwards, so we can get out of our end quickly. He also has to make sure he's defending well."
After watching the Senators' first two games — road losses to the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs — from the pressbox, Rundblad believes he's gained a perspective that can help him tonight against the Wild.
"You can see the whole rink. It's a lot easier to watch every situation," said the native of Lycksele, Sweden. "These games are much faster compared to the games I played in the pre-season ... everything is more intense and faster. So I've got to learn to play faster and move my feet more."
One other thing he knows for sure ... being a spectator isn't nearly as enjoyable.
"It's more fun to play than watch a game, so I'm really excited to get this opportunity," said Rundblad, who'll start the game paired with veteran Chris Phillips.
"Hopefully, we get a win and it's going to be a lot of fun to play."
Also enthused about the chance to get back into the mix is Peter Regin, who sees his first regular-season action since Feb. 19, when a left shoulder injury cut short his 2010-11 season. The Danish centre, who dinged the same shoulder during pre-season and sat out the first two games of the regular schedule, is clearly raring to go again.
"I got a couple of exhibition games in," said Regin. "That's a little like (regular-season) games but it's been awhile, so I'm excited to get back out there. I'll probably be a little nervous, but that's to be expected ... I just need to play my game, a solid two-way game."
Around the boards
Regin's return means Nikita Filatov and Bobby Butler will both be scratches tonight, while Rundblad takes Brian Lee's spot in the lineup ... Craig Anderson makes his third straight start in goal ... Fans are asked to be in their seats at 7:20 p.m. for tonight's pre-game ceremonies, which will include a tribute to the original 1992-93 Senators team. You can also great the alumni and the current players in a red carpet arrival in front of Scotiabank Place at 4:30 p.m. ... Ottawa is 7-2-1-0 all-time against the Wild, including 3-1-0-0 at home ... Fewer than 500 tickets remain for tonight's game ... The Senators will debut their new heritage jerseys on Thursday, when the Colorado Avalanche pay their lone visit of the season to the capital (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).