|Senators centre Peter Regin is one of seven Stanley Cup playoff newcomers set to hit the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
Youth will indeed be served tonight at Mellon Arena — at least on the Ottawa Senators' side of the proceedings.
When the Senators face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at Mellon Arena in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series, no less than six playoff newcomers will suit up in Ottawa colours. But while that might seem like a major concern against the defending Stanley Cup champions, Sens head coach Cory Clouston doesn't see it that way.
"We’ve got some young guys, but we’re not worried about those young guys," said Clouston in the days leading up to the series opener. "Sometimes, being naïve and not knowing how long and how hard it’s going to be is almost an advantage. When you know it’s going to be a two-month struggle and you’ve got some bumps and bruises already, you’ve got to ask yourself ‘are you prepared to spend the next two months battling every night?’
"We’ve got some guys with a lot of energy who are very excited about this. We have all the confidence in the world in the young guys."
They'll need to, given that some of them play vital roles — and log major minutes — in the Senators' scheme of things. Danish rookie Peter Regin
currently skates on Ottawa's top line alongside Jason Spezza
and Daniel Alfredsson
, while teen phenom Erik Karlsson
and Matt Carkner
are key cogs on the Senators blue line. There's also goaltender Brian Elliott, who has become the team's main man between the pipes.
"You're always nervous before you play your first playoff game," admitted Regin. "But I think everybody is probably nervous, even the guys who have been here for 15 years. It's a fun time of the year, so I think everybody is trying to enjoy it. Everybody is excited about getting to play now."
"Sometimes, being naïve and not knowing how long and how hard it’s going to be is almost an advantage. When you know it’s going to be a two-month struggle and you’ve got some bumps and bruises already, you’ve got to ask yourself 'are you prepared to spend the next two months battling every night?' We’ve got some guys with a lot of energy who are very excited about this. We have all the confidence in the world in the young guys." - Cory Clouston
Alfredsson, for one, believes the kids will be all right.
I expect them to do really well," said the Senators captain. "We have a few guys with a lot of experience who can help calm them down. It’s still the same game, just another step. They’ll take on their role and go with it. I don’t see that (inexperience) slowing anyone down."
And there is plenty of playoff experience in the Senators dressing room. Even with all the neophytes on board, the team boast a collective 872 games of playoff experience — the fourth-highest of any team in this year's Stanley Cup playoff chase. There are certainly plenty of helping hands to guide the newcomers along.
"As a guy who’s been through it … I look back at some of the playoff runs I’ve been on with some of the older guys and their calm and their confidence and their understanding that it’s a rollercoaster," said Senators centre Matt Cullen, one of three Senators who own Stanley Cup rings (Carolina in 2006). "You win one game, you haven’t won the series or you lose one game, you haven’t lost the series. Things like that are invaluable when you talk about experience and guys who have been through it before."
Regin, who has prior post-season experience from his playing days in Sweden and Denmark, knows it'll be a different game starting tonight. The boost in media attention has already made that rather obvious, if he didn't know it already.
"All the media ... I'm not used to that back home," said Regin. "We didn't have 20 guys in the locker room after practice. So the whole thing around the game is probably bigger here and there's more pressure. But as soon as you get on the ice, I'm pretty sure the pressure is the same."