October 03, 2016 - 1:26 PM
OTTAWA - Players who have yet to catch the eye of Guy Boucher are running out of chances to impress the new Ottawa Senators head coach.
The Senators visited Winnipeg on Monday before playing Toronto on Tuesday in Saskatoon, leaving little time for skaters on the bubble to make a final impression.
"(Monday) will give us confirmation on some guys, doubts on some other ones, but it's a very important game for a lot of these guys that are trying to make the team," Boucher said. "After these two games we're going down to who's going to start with us."
Players such as Matt Puempel, Ryan Dzingel, Phil Varone and Nick Paul are all competing for work up front, while Thomas Chabot, Fredrik Claesson, Michael Kostka and Matt Bartkowski will be looking to prove they can help on the blue line.
"These are probably the biggest two games of my career right now," said Dzingel. "I'm just trying to play the best I can so I can take one of those last spots that are open."
Few openings remain up front and on defence and Boucher admits little separates players from one another, making a final decision that much more difficult.
"After these two (games) I want to have a decision. If we're not sure, we're in the middle, well I'm going to make a decision because I want to get down to our guys. We need reps, we need reps in practice, we need reps in games and Friday we want to go with the guys we're going to start with."
The Senators wrap-up the pre-season Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
Mark Stone continues to make progress as he recovers from a concussion suffered during the first on-ice session and is hopeful to play Friday.
Stone continues to practice with the team, made the trip out west and is hoping to undergo his final baseline test Thursday.
"When you watch your teammates go through a camp like we've had you want to be part of it," said Stone. "Especially with a new coaching staff, new players, new faces. You just want to be part of it and I haven't been.
"I want to get in at least one game before the start of the year."
Stone wore a tinted visor Monday to help reduce the glare from the lights and said he would consider keeping it on.
"It takes away those big, bright lights up top. I think in the last four, five years every building seems like it keeps getting brighter and brighter so it helps with the glare. I'd recommend it to anyone. I'd probably get a few heckles from guys on some other teams for wearing it, but whatever."
Craig Anderson was also back on the practice ice after missing time for personal reasons. Anderson is expected to start Tuesday's game against the Maple Leafs.
Anderson missed most of training camp, but neither he or Boucher seem overly concerned by the lack of practice time.
"Some quality time was missed, but I've been to training camp long enough now where we still have enough days left where I should be able to see enough pucks to feel comfortable," Anderson said.
Boucher believes his top netminder will be ready for opening night Oct. 12.
"He's not a technical goalie, he's more of a read the play so he hasn't lost that over the summer," Boucher said. "Sometimes technical goalies they tend to need those repetitions to make sure that technically they're perfect, but he's not that type of goalie…In his case he's experienced and he's smart and he knows what he needs and in his mind he'll be OK with these two games."
Notes: Zack Smith did not make the trip as he continues to deal with a deep bruise in his foot and the team felt it was in his best interest to remain in Ottawa. The Senators signed D Maxime Lajoie to a three-year entry-level contract. Lajoie was the Senators' fifth round pick, 133rd overall, at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016