What a way for Ilya Zubov
to make his National Hockey League debut.
The 20-year-old Russian will line up alongside Daniel Alfredsson
and Jason Spezza
on the Senators’ No. 1 line when Ottawa closes out its season series with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).
Zubov was summoned from the Binghamton Senators on Tuesday morning and will be given a chance, temporarily at least, to fill the void left by the separated right shoulder that will sideline Dany Heatley for up to six weeks.
“Offensive players have to play with offensive players,” said Senators head coach John Paddock. “He’s been substantially better (in Binghamton) than at the beginning of the season and has adapted well to a league where you’re going to get hit and you have to fight through that.
“We obviously don’t have a regular winger right now (on the top line), so we’ll see.”
Zubov, naturally, is itching to see his first real NHL game action.
“I’m a little bit excited for the game,” he said after the Senators’ pre-game skate. “I have a good line, that’s good for me. Spezza and these guys are helping me. It’s my first (NHL) game, so we’ll see tonight.”
Zubov has been playing on a line with Niko Dimitrakos and fellow Russian prospect Alexander Nikulin in Binghamton. Nikulin, who got his first callup with the big club earlier in the season, had pretty basic advice for his roommate down on the farm.
“He said (the NHL) is more fast, with more hits,” said Zubov. “He said ‘don’t worry about it, just play your game.’
“I just have to play how I play, nothing special.”
Alfredsson offered up similar advice.
“Just work hard out there,” the Senators captain said. “He knows why he got called up. I don’t think he can change his style. He’s a guy who plays with the puck.
“It goes a little bit faster up here, but we’re going to help him out. Hopefully, he can fit in well, and we can move the puck around and play with it a lot.”
Spezza, who missed the final two periods of Sunday’s loss to the New York Islanders after taking a jarring hit from the Isles’ Freddy Meyer, declared himself ready to play after the morning skate.
Ray Emery will make the start in goal against the Capitals, who have won all three previous meetings against the Senators this season.
The Sens return home to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). About 700 tickets remain for the game.