There are golden opportunities and then there is this.
Speedy forward Ryan Shannon makes his Ottawa Senators debut tonight, when the New York Islanders supply the opposition at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200). He was summoned from the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators on Wednesday in the wake of Jarkko Ruutu's two-game suspension for an elbowing incident against the Montreal Canadiens a night earlier.
But Shannon won't exactly suit up as a run-of-the-mill fill-in against the Isles. He'll line up alongside two of the Senators' top guns, Jason Spezza
and Dany Heatley.
"You can't get a better opportunity," said Shannon, who's had previous National Hockey League stints with the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks. "I just want to keep my feet moving and complement them, and bring a lot of energy to the line.
"There's not enough time to get line chemistry, so I'll just kind of roll the dice, play my game and, hopefully, it fits with theirs."
Shannon, Ilya Zubov
and Zack Smith
have been a red-hot combo for the B-Sens so far this season, combining for 22 goals and 45 points in 13 games. Both Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray and Brent Flahr, the team's director of hockey operations, feel he'll be an equally good fit with Heatley and Spezza.
"The reports coming from Timmy and Brent are that he's (Binghamton's) best all-around player," Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg said after the team's pre-game skate today. "You call up a good player from down there that plays on their top line and he's a good that they count on to provide offence.... We've got to put him a position that's similar, to see if he can make the same kind of contribution at this level."
While Shannon will have two chances to further impress Senators management, he's arriving here with even more of a sense of urgency about it all.
"It's definitely a privilege, playing in the NHL," said Shannon, who will get a second crack at the Islanders on Saturday night in Uniondale, N.Y. "You get that sense once you're sent down. Sometimes when you're up here, you don't really realize how good it is until you're gone.
"I want to cherish it and play well.... I've been away from the NHL for awhile and I definitely have nerves. I'm going to use them to my advantage, keep my feet moving and use that energy."
"You can't get a better opportunity. I just want to keep my feet moving and complement them, and bring a lot of energy to the line. There's not enough time to get line chemistry, so I'll just kind of roll the dice, play my game and, hopefully, it fits with theirs." - Ryan Shannon
The Senators are 10-1-1 over the past three seasons against the Islanders, who currently are dead last in the Eastern Conference standings (4-9-2) and won't have injured ace goaltender Rick DiPietro between the pipes.
While that might seem to make them the right tonic for a Senators team that has dropped its last two starts, it's not a thought you'll hear emanating from the Ottawa dressing room.
"We've had some success against them in the past but this is a new year," said Heatley. "They're a team that plays with a lot of energy and they have guys that can burn you. Any team in this league, we have to take real seriously. We need points in every game and we have to be ready to go tonight."
Added Spezza: "It doesn't matter who we're playing right now. We've just got to straighten our own game out. Definitely, coming off a couple of losses, it's a game we feel like we want to win. It's important for us to get on track and stay on track. We've got to make some strides as a team and be a little more consistent."Around the boards
With Shannon alongside Heatley and Spezza tonight, Hartsburg will shift Nick Foligno
to a line with Dean McAmmond and Chris Neil
. The other two combinations: Daniel Alfredsson
-Mike Fisher-Jesse Winchester and Antoine Vermette-Chris Kelly-Shean Donovan ... Alex Auld
(5-3-1) makes his 10th start of the season in goal for the Senators ... Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for the game.