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Shannon making most of increased opportunity

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Ryan Shannon has taken on an increased role with the Senators and is feeling energized by the youthful newcomers now on hand in the team`s lineup (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
There's a youthful new vibe making its presence felt inside the Ottawa Senators dressing room these days.

Count Ryan Shannon among those grooving to the new beat.

"It is a new energy," the 28-year-old forward said today when asked about the collective lift being felt by a team now dotted with several young up-and-coming talents. "It's completely different. It reminds me of the energy going into my first season in Portland (as an American Hockey League rookie in 2005-06).

"Being in the minors, guys are excited to show up at the rink and play, and you live for the day. You don't know how long you're going to be here. You don't know what it's going to be like next year, so you just play for the day."

Sitting in the Eastern Conference basement and with their playoff hopes long ago extinguished, the Senators still want to do more than just play out the string. They've found motivation from the enthusiasm they see from the likes of rookie Erik Condra, whose second two-goal effort since his callup from Binghamton fuelled a 2-1 road victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Shannon had a major hand in the first, using his speed to outrace a pair of Devils defenders to nullify an icing call, then slipping a nifty pass to Condra, who whacked his own rebound past New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur to open the scoring in the second period.

The 5-9, 175-pound native of Darien, Conn., has felt more jump in his step since joining a line with Condra and Marek Svatos, a waiver pickup by the Senators on trade deadline day.

"It's been great," Shannon said following a 30-minute workout at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., where the Senators tangle with the Panthers on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "Erik's been having a lot of success and everything he touches is going into the net. He's on cloud nine. And Svats is fitting in well, too, (even though) we're still getting to know each other."

What's most interesting about that combination is that Shannon is its centre, further evidence of the greater responsibility he's now being handed by Senators head coach Cory Clouston.

"I don't know if we could ask much more from Ryan," said Clouston. "He still has to work on faceoffs but at centre, he’s been so good. We’ve played him in every position — left wing, right wing, centre. He set up a real nice goal last night just on hustle and he’s producing on the power play as well. So there’s not a whole lot (more) we could ask him to do.`

Earlier in the season, Shannon saw limited minutes on many nights and, Clouston admitted, he knew it was grating on the veteran winger.

"He was in a tough situation this year where I know he felt at times he should have been playing more in bigger roles," said Clouston. "I guess when you looked at our pay scale and the way the team was set up, it was difficult for him to do that. But he was a perfect team player when that was happening."

Now, with Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly traded away and Milan Michalek on the shelf with a broken foot, Shannon is being called upon for more penalty-killing duty. He's also seeing time on the power play for a team that has seen its forward ranks decimated by trades and injuries. But Clouston is the first to suggest that none of Shannon's gains have come by default.

"Until players were removed (from the lineup), he hadn’t gotten the opportunity," said Clouston. "But he's been grabbing the bull by the horns and he's really done an excellent job for us."

Shannon is savouring every minute of his new opportunity.

"I like it," he said. "Playing more minutes, the penalty kill, the power play ... that’s something I really like."

Around the boards

Nobody is happier to be in south Florida than goaltender Craig Anderson, who is spending time with his pregnant wife, Nicole, for the first time since he was dealt to the Senators last month. Rather than move with her husband from Denver to Ottawa for the balance of the season, Nicole — who is due in July — is staying with relatives in the Sunshine State. "It was very nice to see her after three weeks," said a beaming Anderson. "I’m looking forward to spending another day with her tomorrow" ... Clouston’s brother, Shaun, is the coach of the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers, whose captain, Wacey Hamilton, signed with the Senators on Tuesday. "He loves him," Clouston said when asked for his brother’s thoughts about Hamilton. "He’s someone who went under the radar the first couple of years (in Medicine Hat). At times, he had to play in the shadow of a couple of higher-end players but in the last couple of years, he’s been given the opportunity and because of his work ethic and character, he’s gotten himself into this situation. Shaun speaks very highly of him" ... The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Condra is the first Senators rookie to record at least two multi-goal performances in a season since Martin Havlat notched three in 2000-01.

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