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Shannon movin' on up Sens forward ladder

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Diminutive winger Ryan Shannon has earned a promotion to a top-six forward role with the Senators, starting with Thursday's road test against the Nashville Predators (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Almost since the day he first arrived in the nation's capital, Ryan Shannon has been waiting for an opportunity like this.

Now he can't wait to show he's ready for more prime time with the Ottawa Senators, starting with Thursday night's road matchup against the Nashville Predators (8 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).

For the Senators, it's their final action before the National Hockey League's two-day Christmas break kicks in. And Shannon, who'll line up alongside centre Jason Spezza and left-winger Milan Michalek, hopes to make the most of his chance to play top-six forward minutes.

"It's something that's been a goal of mine ever since I've become a Senator," said the 27-year-old Shannon, who was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in September 2008. "It's a great chance (for me).

"Things aren’t working out too well (right now) — we need to throw together some wins and get some points. Hopefully, I can help do that."

Indeed, the Senators (14-17-4), who stand 11th in the Eastern Conference, are in serious need of a winning streak if they're to make a push for a post-season spot. And a boost in offence would go a long way toward that direction. Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston believes Shannon's speed can help provide a jumpstart in that area.

"That’s what we’re hoping for," Clouston said following Senators practice earlier today at the Bell Sensplex. "(Shannon) is only averaging 8½ minutes (of ice time per game) and he’s been able to put up some decent numbers this year (four goals, five assists in 32 games).

"He's working hard. He's been very good on the forecheck. His ice (time) hasn't been a lot ... and he's still managed to produce at times offensively. So he deserves an opportunity to play more minutes and he'll get that (Thursday) night."

Spezza welcomes the chance to operate between a pair of speedy wingers.

"Milan and Shanny are probably the two fastest guys on the team," he said. "It's about trying to make sure we keep our pace up as a line, start with a good forecheck and read off each other from there and get comfortable.

"They can create room for me and I can return the favour for them."

Even in a more prominent role, the 5-9, 175-pound Shannon doesn't plan to change anything about the style of game that has earned him the promotion to a top line.

"My game doesn't change," he said. "I've got to use my speed. I played with some pretty good players earlier in my career and I know if you're just looking to give them the puck all the time, it's not going to work. You have to be confident in your game and play hard, so that's what I'm looking to do.

"It’s been a limited role up to this point. With those limited minutes, you just really have to focus on that next shift and not be your own worst enemy. If any negative thoughts come into your mind on the bench ...  that just sabotages your game. You have to stay focused."

Around the boards

Goaltender Pascal Leclaire (lower body) won't make the trip to Nashville, but Clouston said he's expected to skate in Ottawa on Thursday. The hope is that he'll be available by Sunday, when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). In the meantime, Mike Brodeur is being recalled from the Binghamton Senators and will join the team in Tennessee ... Nashville is renowned as the home of country music, so what better place for about 10 Senators to take in a Garth Brooks concert, which they'll do tonight. "I'm a big country fan. I've seen a few of his concerts," said defenceman Chris Phillips, who is also among more than 2,500 pro athletes involved in the singer's Teammates For Kids children's charity. "I'm looking forward to seeing him again."

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