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Shannon feels at home in return to Sens lineup

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Ryan Shannon has been cleared to return to the Ottawa Senators lineup and is anxious to take on the New York Rangers tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden, a rink located just a short 45-minute drive from his hometown of Darien, Conn. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).

If there is a right place for Ryan Shannon to slip comfortably back into the Ottawa Senators lineup, it has to be this.

Madison Square Garden sits in the heart of Manhattan, a mere 45-minute drive from Shannon's hometown of Darien, Conn. And it's where he'll attempt to quickly regain his game legs on Friday night, when the Senators take on the New York Rangers (7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200) in their second-last test of the pre-season.

Shannon has been held out of the Senators lineup since Sept. 22, when he took a crushing hit into the glass at Toronto's Air Canada Centre at the hands of the Maple Leafs' Jay Rosehill. But the diminutive Ottawa forward — who has suffered concussions in each of the last two seasons — has passed all the necessary baseline tests and has been cleared for game action.

"I'm 100 per cent. I feel great," said Shannon, who has a special fondness for the building the Broadway Blueshirts call home. "I grew up watching all the Ranger games. It's a pinnacle rink for me."

With training camp nearing its end and the start of the regular season just eight days away, Shannon has precious little time now to show he deserves a spot in the Senators lineup. But he doesn't feel the need to go into catchup mode because of missed time in camp.

"I think that would be a mistake," said the 5-9, 175-pound forward. "If I felt like I had to be hurried or tried to do too much, then my game would fall apart. It's more important to me to focus on the things I was doing all summer, the things that I've been preparing this week and trying to make sure I do my best and make sure I stay focused the entire game.

"(Friday's game) should be an opportunity for everybody on the ice to show what they can do and where they can play. Just because I'm coming back from injury, that shouldn't change my mindset. If I feel like I need to catch up or do something extraordinary, it's not a good thing. I just need to stay focused. I'm enthusiastic about what I can show, don't get me wrong. I'm not going in there hesitant. I'm focused and ready to go."

It's a mindset, Shannon admits, that has taken some time for him to acquire.

"Just because I'm coming back from injury, that shouldn't change my mindset. If I feel like I need to catch up or do something extraordinary, it's not a good thing. I just need to stay focused. I'm enthusiastic about what I can show, don't get me wrong. I'm not going in there hesitant. I'm focused and ready to go." - Ryan Shannon
"That's where experience has to come in a little bit and knowing that you can't really control things outside of your own attitude and the way you approach the game," he said. "If this had happened to me two years ago, I probably wouldn't have felt prepared to play right now. I would have felt rushed and had a lot of anxiety going into the game.

"Now I know all I have to do is bring what I can bring and show the training staff, the coaches, the (team) management and all the fans what I can do."

That also about sums up the attitude of some of the younger players who still remain in the hunt for jobs, with only two pre-season games left to display their wares. Defencemen Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch, along with forward Bobby Butler, will all get another audition in New York on Friday. It's a nervous time all around, to be sure.

"They don't really tell you a lot, so you have to try to figure out what they're trying to decide and what they're going to do with you," said the 19-year-old Cowen. "But I foresee a future here, so hopefully they'll tell me what's going on soon."

Head coach Cory Clouston said the auditions will continue right through the Senators' pre-season finale against the Rangers on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers TV, Team 1200).

"There are some players we want to make sure we get maybe one more look at or two more looks at and go from there," he told reporters earlier today. "I think everyone in this group has a pretty good idea about who's going to stay and who's going to go. Beyond that, I don't think there are any real big surprises. But we'll wait and see for a couple more games.

Around the boards

Centre Mike Fisher, who took a hit from behind into the boards during Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the Leafs, didn't skate today but Clouston said "he'll be okay. He kind of kinked his head a little bit when he went headfirst into the boards from that hit. We just want to err on the cautious side." ... Clouston has been pleased by the performance of veteran defenceman David Hale, a summer free-agent signing, in camp so far. "I didn't know completely what to expect from him," said Clouston. "In his mind, he came here to make the team and I think he's been good for us. He'd done all he can do. We'll see how it unfolds, but he's made a pretty good statement here to at least stay until the start of the season."

*****
The Senators' lineup for Friday's game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden:

Goaltenders: Brian Elliott, Pascal Leclaire.

Defence: Chris Campoli, Jared Cowen, Sergei Gonchar, Brian Lee, Erik Karlsson, Chris Phillips, Patrick Wiercioch.

Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson, Bobby Butler, Nick Foligno, Ryan Keller, Chris Kelly, Milan Michalek, Chris Neil, Peter Regin, Jarkko Ruutu, Ryan Shannon, Jason Spezza, Jesse Winchester.


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