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Senators still believe Filatov can make an impact

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward Nikita Filatov has attracted attention from the Kontinental Hockey League, but the Senators aren't ready to give up on the former No. 6 overall draft pick (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images),

The Ottawa Senators haven't given up on Nikita Filatov just yet.

While the Russian forward has expressed displeasure at his latest demotion to the American Hockey League, Senators general manager Bryan Murray said today he isn't ready to cut bait with a talented 21-year-old he obtained from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL entry draft in June. And that means recent inquiries about his services by Central Red Army of the Kontinental Hockey League have fallen on deaf ears in the Ottawa camp.

"He wants to be in the NHL, obviously," Murray told reporters in Edmonton, where the Senators are preparing to face off against the Oilers on Thursday night at Rexall Place (9:30 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200). "But he (also) has a contract and an obligation to our organization. From what I understand and I believe to be true, the KHL honours NHL contracts and we honour theirs. So the option is not Filatov’s, it (belongs to) the Ottawa Senators."

When the Senators acquired Filatov for a third-round pick, they saw an offensively gifted player with the talent to potentially fit nicely into a top-six forward role. But during six games in Ottawa, he recorded only one assist. With key parts of his game not deemed to be up to National Hockey League standards, Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean sent Filatov back to the farm nine days ago for more seasoning.

"We want him to be a National Hockey League player," said MacLean. "We want his skill and we want his abilities here in Ottawa to help our team, but the problem we have with him is when he comes up here and plays, he doesn’t do the things that he does when he’s (in Binghamton). When he’s there, he has the puck all the time and he makes other people better. He attacks the net and he’s a dangerous player. When he comes here, he doesn’t do that.

"I told him ‘I want to put you on the ice, but I don’t want to put you on the ice just because you think you should play 17 minutes. If you come here and you work and you play your way into those minutes, you’re going to get those minutes. But you have to play in order to get them.'"

Murray and Filatov held a 20-minute face-to-face meeting on Sunday, when the B-Sens were at Scotiabank Place to take on the Hamilton Bulldogs in an AHL matinee. The Senators general manager indicated to the Russian winger that the door is still open for another opportunity in Ottawa.

"Basically what I told him is ... go down and play in Binghamton and play hard," said Murray. "I said to him if you’re playing well, we’ll give you another opportunity to show your wares here and then if by the end of November, you’re not in the NHL, I will sit down with you and talk again.

"We all know, talent wise, he can play in the NHL. It’s the other parts of the game, that don’t always include talent, that you have to be able to do regularly ... He thinks that he has to be a point getter, an offensive threat, to play in the NHL. We’ve continually told him to be a little more rounded and then he can contribute to this hockey team. That’s why we sent him down (to Binghamton)."

While the Blue Jackets, who made Filatov the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NHL draft, chose to walk away from his potential earlier this year, Murray believes there is still something salvageable in a player he called "a great kid."

"Sit and talk to him and (you’ll see) he’s a bright young man," said Murray. "He had all the reasons for different things that happened in his career. Paul certainly indicated there’s a good person in there. He has to learn a little more about North America and playing the game, but he seemed willing to work and compete. Any practice I saw him at, I thought he worked fairly hard.

"I think we know what Nikita brings. He brings talent. He brings puck skills. We’d just like him to be a touch better in some other areas."

Around the boards

On the heels of Tuesday's 3-1 triumph in Calgary, the Senators were in a buoyant mood as they skated today at Rexall Place. "It makes today a bit easier," veteran defenceman Chris Phillips said of the the Senators' first win in Calgary in nearly nine years. "It’s funny how winning has a way of doing that, putting everyone in a good mood. To start this leg of the trip off with a win was really good for us." ... After Thursday's matchup in Edmonton, the Senators close out their western trip Sunday in Vancouver against the Canucks (9 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

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