Cheechoo makes his training camp debut with Senators

TSN.ca Staff
9/14/2009 11:16:23 PM
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On a day where the Ottawa Senators trimmed their training camp roster by nine players, one very important addition took the ice at for the first time with his new team.

Wearing the number 41, Jonathan Cheechoo was all smiles as he joined his teammates at practice.

"I'm excited," exclaimed the hard-nosed right-winger. "We have a good young team here, mixed with some good veterans. I'm looking forward to coming out and trying to help this team win."

After an off-season littered with turmoil over what to do with star forward Dany Heatley, the Sens shipped their leading goal scorer and a fifth round pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, and a second round pick.

"[Getting traded] was a little shocking, but exciting at the same time," explained the native of Moose Factory, Ontario. "It's a move closer to home and close to where I played junior, so it's something I'm looking forward to."

A second round (29th overall) election by San Jose in 1998, Cheechoo played his entire professional career to this point with the Sharks. The former 50-goal scorer is entering his seventh season in the NHL, and will be expected to account for at least part of the production Ottawa lost with Heatley's departure.

"I want to come out and do the things that made me successful, like back-checking, creating second chances that way, causing turnovers and any offensive stuff that comes. I'm not really looking at numbers. I know the goals will come if I do get the chances," remarked the 6'1, 205-pound forward.

Nagged by injuries throughout most of the year, Cheechoo had 12 goals and 17 assists with a minus- 3 rating in 66 games last season. A far cry from his career highs set in 2005-06 when he put up 56 goals and 37 assists playing along side Joe Thornton.

"I come out every year and I want to play to the best of my abilities and I felt last year I didn't do that as well as I should have," he stated. "It's something where I want to come out and show people I can still play at a high level."

In his training camp debut with Ottawa on Monday, Cheechoo began this new stage of his career skating next to centre Jason Spezza, who served as Heatley's set-up man for the past few seasons.

"Playing with a guy like Spezza, he's a special player too. It would definitely be exciting to get some passes from him," described Cheechoo, optimistically.

"It's a good compliment to my game having a guy who can shoot the puck and like to shoot one timers and likes to go to the net," said his new potential line-mate Spezza.

"Anybody that's watched him play knows that he plays real hard and is real good down low, and that's a part of my game that I'm trying to work on, so hopefully that can help me out too," added Spezza.

Realizing that opportunities to bring home the Stanley Cup are rare, Cheechoo hopes that a full off-season of training will be the right prescription to get his game back to an elite status.

"The last couple years I haven't had the chance. I've had a couple surgeries after the season so I haven't had a full summer to get ready. This year I have a full summer to get ready, I got into great shape and I can't wait to get out there."
The Senators play their first exhibition game on Tuesday in Halifax, against the Florida Panthers, who will also be adjusting to life without a longtime star this year as Jay Bouwmeester was dealt to the Calgary Flames in the off-season.

Notes: The group of nine players released by the Sens includes defencemen Paul Baier, Mat Robinson, and Craig Schira, as well as forwards Kyle Wharton, Jason Bailey, Keegan Dansereau, Kaspars Daugavins, Matt Lowry and Brandon Svendsen... The Senators camp roster is now comprised of 46 players: six goaltenders, 12 defencemen and 28 forwards… The Senators make the cross-continent trip to San Jose on Dec. 1, but the Sharks won't visit Ottawa until next season, unless the two teams meet in the Stanley Cup final in June.

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