|Senators centre Kyle Turris has seen his fortunes rise dramatically since his trade to Ottawa by the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 17. He makes his return to the Arizona desert tonight (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images).
It is a day, Kyle Turris
admits, he isn't likely to forget anytime soon.
Hearing his name called third overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. And being welcomed to the National Hockey League by none other than Wayne Gretzky, in many eyes the greatest player the game has ever seen ... it was enough to leave any teenager starry eyed.
"I remember everything," Turris said in recalling that June day at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. "It's stuff that I'll remember, and I'll remember my draft day forever."
But, the Ottawa Senators centre is quick to point out, that's where any emotional attachment to his former hockey home pretty much ends. All of which adds some intrigue — for the 22-year-old Turris, at least — to tonight's matchup against the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena (9 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
Mind you, it's a moment he's anticipated almost since Dec. 17, the day he was traded from Phoenix to Ottawa in exchange for blueliner David Rundblad and a draft pick.
"I knew we were going to be back (in Phoenix) at the end of January," Turris said of his return to the Arizona desert for this evening's contest. "It's something I kind of laughed about at the time ... it'll be weird walking into the visiting dressing room, warming up on the other side of the ice and all that. But it's something I'm excited to get at."
The native of New Westminster, B.C., isn't expecting the warmest reception tonight.
"It's going to be a bit of a different atmosphere for me," said Turris. "There might be a couple of boos thrown in there, but it's (to be expected) when you're playing in a league like this."
While Turris has nothing but good things to say about Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, he knew going into this season that his situation in Phoenix "wasn't the right fit for me for many different reasons." He requested a trade, held out for six weeks before signing a new two-year contract, then finally got his wish when the deal between the Senators and Coyotes was finally consummated.
Clearly, Turris feels like a new man in Ottawa, where head coach Paul MacLean installed him as the team's second-line centre. Turris has been a key contributor since his arrival, producing 13 points, including four goals, in his first 18 games with the Senators.
"We felt he was a good player and, once he got up to speed, was going to give us what we liked (about him)," said MacLean. "We really felt like it made our team a solid four-line team, and gave us that player in the second-line spot that we can play against any player in the league. Our expectation was for him to come in an play, but we had none about points ... it was just to get him playing, and he's played real well.
"He's been real diligent in the faceoff circle, does a real good job without the puck, distributes the puck well and shoots it well. For me, he's the type of player that is prevalent in the league right now — a player who can play the game at 200 feet."
For his part, Turris continues to feed off the confidence MacLean and his teammates keep showing in him.
"It's been amazing," he said. "Coach MacLean giving the team and myself confidence and allowing us to play our game and have fun … having that confidence makes you a hundred times better hockey player. The game, and the majority of sports, is all about confidence. He has instilled that in me from Day 1 and I can’t thank him enough for it, because it’s made me feel comfortable and allowed me to play my game and play the way I have been.
"Then with the team, it’s such a great group of guys and we all mesh together so well ... I’m just very excited and happy and thankful to be with coach MacLean and Ottawa."
Meanwhile, the Senators (27-18-6) — who have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since early November — want to enter the all-star break on a high note. A win tonight over the Coyotes would be just the tonic for a road-weary squad.
"We really want to end it on a positive note," said Senators centre Jason Spezza
. "It's been a real tough trip and a taxing trip on us. But we've got one game (left) and we can see the finish line, so it's important for us to be focused and really try to pick up these two points. It could be big for us going to the break and (have us) feeling good about ourselves.
"We've come this far and it's been a good road stretch so far. We just want to put the last couple (losses, to Anaheim and Los Angeles) behind us and make sure we play a good game tonight."Around the boards
Perhaps no Senators player will appreciate the break more than goaltender Craig Anderson
, who makes his 14th straight start tonight. But the NHL's busiest goaltender, who leads the league in games played (46), shots faced (1,385) and saves (1,261), doesn't believe he's feeling the effects of a heavy workload. "You just take it one game at a time and you focus on the task at hand," said Anderson, who's planning some family time in Florida during the break. "You don't really think about what's gone on in the past or how many (games) you've played. You've played this game long enough that you've been in this situation before. You know how to deal with it and move forward." ... MacLean will insert blueliner Matt Carkner
back into the lineup tonight, meaning Mark Borowiecki and fellow Binghamton callup Andre Petersson are the scratches tonight.