|After a slow start in Binghamton this season, Roman Wick has adapted to the North American game and the Swiss native will make his NHL debut for the Senators tonight (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
It has become a rite of passage for a growing group of Ottawa Senators farmhands.
Now it'll be Roman Wick's turn to feel the excitement of his first National Hockey League game.
With regulars Chris Neil
and Jesse Winchester
unavailable for tonight's road contest against the Buffalo Sabres (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) and Alex Kovalev traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, the Senators have summoned Wick and Corey Locke from the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators to fill out their lineup.
Veteran winger Marek Svatos, claimed off waivers Thursday from the Nashville Predators, also will see his first Senators action at HSBC Arena this evening.
Wick joins a parade of B-Sens who have made their NHL debuts in Senators colours this season, among them Bobby Butler
, Colin Greening
, Erik Condra
, Jim O'Brien
. All but O'Brien are still with the Senators at the moment.
"I'm more excited, but obviously a little bit nervous, too," said the 25-year-old Wick, a native of Zuzwil, Switzerland. "This is my first NHL game and it's normal to be nervous."
A fifth-round pick (156th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Wick spent the previous four seasons with the Kloten Flyers in the Swiss National League before deciding to make his move to North America this season. Early on, at least, it wasn't the easiest of transitions in Binghamton for the 6-2, 208-pound forward.
"I had problems at the start," Wick told reporters before the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today at HSBC Arena. "I felt a little bit out of place, to be honest. In the AHL, it's really north-south hockey, with everything in lanes. The last couple of months, I've been playing better, got some goals and kind of figured it out."
Indeed, Wick has been a growing force for the B-Sens since the calendar flipped into 2011. On Jan. 22, he recorded his first professional hat trick against the Manchester Monarchs. During Binghamton's recent hot streak, Wick produced three game-winning goals and drew assists on two other deciding tallies.
"The last month and a half or two months, he's been very good and deserves his opportunity," head coach Cory Clouston said of Wick. "It's a very different style of game (in the AHL). We saw that with Peter Regin
a couple of years ago down there. He suffered a couple of injuries just because of the physical play that was going on down there and the different style of play.
"As the season progressed, he adjusted and had a much stronger second half of the season. It's no different with Roman this year."
Wick knows the necessary formula for him tonight.
"If you want to have success on this ice (in the AHL), you have to play really simple, honest hockey," he said. "I definitely want to play that way here. I don't want to make things complicated in my first NHL game. But still, I want to show what I've got."
That might also sum up the mindset of Svatos, who's trying to restart his NHL career with the Senators. After five seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, he found himself in the Kontinental Hockey League to start this season with Avangard Omsk. After being first signed by the St. Louis Blues in late December, then claimed off re-entry waivers by Nashville, he's anxious to settle in for awhile in Ottawa.
"I've been all over the place this season ... it's been pretty crazy," said Svatos. "My plan is to have a strong finish to this season and we'll go from there. (Last) summer didn't work out so well, so I ended up going to Russia. That wasn't something I wanted to do and when I say I want to prove myself as an NHL player, it means I want to be in the NHL next year."Around the boardsCraig Anderson
makes his third straight start in goal for the Senators tonight. Since being obtained in a trade with the Avs last Friday, he's allowed just one goal in two appearances, backstopping Ottawa to consecutive wins for the first time since the end of December ... Tonight's game marks the fifth of six meetings between the teams this season, with the Senators sporting a 1-1-2 record so far against Buffalo ... Ottawa returns home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), which has also been designated as Do It For Daron Mental Health Awareness Night. Click here
to check out some of the ways you can help the cause.