Duclair gets his top-line chance to shine for Senators
LAS VEGAS - Anthony Duclair is living that old saying, "Go west, young man," to discover opportunities for success.
There was Duclair in the T-Mobile Arena spotlight late Thursday night against the Vegas Golden Knights, looking to spark the Ottawa Senators' offence on the top line with Colin White and Brady Tkachuk.
"He has got to work and stay on pucks and continue to create offensive chances," Senators coach D.J. Smith said before the puck dropped. "This is a big road trip for him. Everyone wants to play on big lines and play all the minutes, but you've got to prove you belong there. He's got some ability."
Heading into Thursday's contest, however, that ability he had displayed and the scoring chances he had created in the opening five games had translated into only a single goal and no assists.
Duclair was re-signed by the Senators in the summer because he has natural scoring ability, something in relatively short supply on the roster. In the opening five games of the season, Connor Brown, Tyler Ennis and Bobby Ryan have been unable to finish while playing with White and Tkachuk.
Duclair has been moved to right wing from his typical left-wing spot in order to try to make something work there.
ANOTHER SHOT FOR PAUL: Nick Paul was back in the lineup Thursday night, receiving what seems like his 100th opportunity to prove he can be a full-time NHL player. He started the night on a fourth line with Jordan Szwarz and Scott Sabourin - Artem Anisimov is still out with a lower-body injury and Mikkel Boedker was a healthy scratch - recognizing that he's being asked to bang and crash, and be a physical pest.
"I've got to be hard on the forecheck," said Paul. "I've got to lay the body, I've got to be responsible defensively and just be a reliable player. That's all I've got to do."
It's a far cry from his big-minute presence in Belleville of the AHL - the line of Paul, Logan Brown and Drake Batherson combined for four goals and eight assists in a 5-4 win over Binghamton last weekend - but if Paul is ever going to stick in the NHL, it's not going to be as a top-six player.
"For him to be in the NHL, he has got to be a physical presence every night," said Smith. "He's got to put pucks behind them and wear them down. If he does that, he will have an opportunity to play here."
IN DEFENCE OF SABOURIN: Sabourin was averaging only 6:29 per game before meeting the Golden Knights, but Smith says he has no complaints about his game. "I think he has been good," said Smith. "He has two points, he is a plus player (he was even in the plus/minus department) and nobody has come in and picked on any of our young guys. For me, he has done his job."
THE MATCHUP GAME: The Golden Knights are nothing if not balanced and full of forward depth, but the Senators aren't bending over backwards to try to match up without the last change on the road.
"Where we're at right now, road games are good for us," said Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who was lined up with Tyler Ennis and Bobby Ryan against Vegas. "We just want to get the lines rolling, just going out and playing. Sometimes when you're not thinking all the time about (matchups) it's better.
THE BIG VISIT: The idea that former Senators star Mark Stone would be hanging out with his former teammates on the eve of a game between the squads, as was the case Wednesday, is a tough one for old-school types to comprehend. Smith, however, says he gets it, because of what Stone's role once was with the Senators. Colin White says he's full of respect for Stone, but couldn't resist a jab when asked about Stone's fight against Nashville's Roman Josi on Tuesday. "That was a soft punch, though," he said. "I think I could take that one. I've seen him in a couple of fights. He has a new attitude in the past couple of years. I think that's what makes him such a special player."
ROUGH DAY FOR GOLDEN KNIGHT: There will be no appeal of left-winger Valentin Zykov's 20-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. "Needless to say, we're extremely disappointed in the result, but we are very supportive of the (NHL's performance-enhancing substance) program," Knights president George McPhee told reporters after the club's morning skate. "Zykov knowingly took supplements, tested positive and has been suspended, and we support the suspension."
Zykov, who played for the Gatineau Olympiques in 2014-15, says he doesn't know how the banned substance got into his system.
"While I haven't been able to discover how I tested positive, I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and will accept this penalty," he said in a statement. "I want to apologize to many family, my teammates and Golden Knights organization and fans."[email protected]
Twitter.com/CitizenkwarrenALSO IN THE NEWS Mom's the word for Ottawa Redblacks receiver Dominique Rhymes Batherson and Brown spend plenty of time together Drake Batherson has an eye towards returning to the Ottawa Senators
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