|Swiss forward Roman Wick needed time to made the adjustment to the North American style of hockey but has become a key contributor to the Binghamton Senators (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
Every time he gets the call from the big club, Roman Wick feels the confidence rise up a little bit more inside him.
And whenever the Swiss forward rides the shuttle from Ottawa back to the Binghamton Senators, the benefits are clearly felt by the American Hockey League team.
The 25-year-old Wick, who suited up for the Senators during Tuesday night's 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Place, will be back in Binghamton this evening, when the B-Sens try to nail down an AHL playoff berth with a victory over the Norfolk Admirals at Broome County Veterans Memorial Centre.
Binghamton, which hasn't seen the post-season since 2004-05, only needs one point to clinch a crossover playoff spot, so even an overtime or shootout loss can get the job done tonight. The B-Sens will surely appreciate the return of Wick to the fold, along with Erik Condra
and defencemen André Benoit, David Hale and Patrick Wiercioch
. All were reassigned to the farm to bolster the ranks for a potential playoff clincher.
Earlier in the season, Wick might not have been considered such a vital addition, let alone a player worthy of three callups to the National Hockey League. But the native of Zuzwil, Switzerland, has emerged as a top offensive threat for the B-Sens in the latter half of the season. He's now produced 17 goals and 46 points in 67 games, with a number of those goals being of the clutch variety.
"He’s an honest player now," said Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst. "Night in and night out, you know what you’re going to get from him whereas earlier in the year, you could see what the potential was, but he was very inconsistent from one night to the next or even one shift to the next.
"I just think Roman’s game has really rounded out. He’s gone up (to Ottawa) lately and when he’s come back, he’s had more impact on the game, which is a positive."
Wick agreed the stints with the Senators have benefited him greatly. He made his NHL debut Feb. 25 in Buffalo and has seen seven games worth of duty in Ottawa.
"Every time you come up again, it (gives you) a little bit more confidence," he said. "You always go back down and you have to work you way up again. But I'm a lot calmer now than I was for my first callup."
A fifth-round selection (156th overall) by the Senators in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Wick spent three years with the Red Deer Rebels and Lethbridge Hurricanes in the Western Hockey League before returning home for the previous four seasons with the Kloten Flyers of the Swiss Elite League.
Finally deeming himself ready to make the move to North America, he signed with the Senators last summer and began the season with the B-Sens. Wick admits now "the adjustment was bigger than I thought, that's for sure."
"I didn't think the AHL and the NHL are different (types of) leagues, but it's a different style of hockey," he said. "And moving from the European league to the AHL is definitely not easy. It took me awhile to figure it out.
"(You need to) consistently battle every game. You can't take one night off. There's not going to be an easy night and you've got to battle every shift. Make sure you stay where you are and move forward, not backwards."
Kleinendorst believes Wick has learned those lessons well over the course of the season.
"It’s just a natural progression of playing in the American league," he said. "Earlier in the year, he needed to (adjust). He’s a European and … there were some things he needed to work on that, if he didn’t get better at them, he wasn’t going to stand a chance to be an NHL player. But credit to Roman, he’s done that.
"His puck battle has really improved. The fact that he doesn’t mind so much playing in traffic, he’ll finish checks … those are all things we identified early on with Roman that he had to get better at. And the mental part of the game is an important part of the game for everybody and I think Roman has become harder mentally, and with that you become more consistent."Down on the farm
If the B-Sens don't get the playoff clincher tonight, they'll have two more cracks at it before the week is out. They're in Rochester, N.Y., on Friday night to face the Americans, then close out the regular season Saturday at home against the Adirondack Phantoms ... In a crossover position, Binghamton would face either the Manchester Monarchs or Portland Pirates in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs ... Corey Locke, the AHL's scoring leader, has established career highs in points (86) and assists (65).