WARRENSPIECE: Ceci returns, Brown-Paul battles heat up, Jeopardy hits rink

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Not to dehumanize the situation too much, but Mark Borowiecki couldn’t help but talk about the big business picture of the National Hockey League when discussing Cody Ceci’s impending return to Canadian Tire Centre.

“It’s always a little strange seeing a guy you came up through the system with, (being) on the opposite side,” said Borowiecki, who will be in the lineup against Ceci and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night in the second game of the back-to-back preseason series.

“But such is life in pro sports. At the end of the day, you’re an asset. You’re a player on a team. You’re going to get moved, regardless of the relationships you have.

“Things can happen. I wish him nothing but the best … as long as it’s not against us.”

Mark Borowiecki of the Ottawa Senators during training camp in Ottawa, September 13, 2019. Jean Levac / Postmedia News

Pre-season game or not, it figures to be an emotional night all around. Nikita Zaitsev and Connor Brown, who came to the Senators in the Canada Day trade for Ceci, will play against the Maple Leafs for the first time. The same goes for Ron Hainsey as the Senators will dress a far more competitive lineup than they did Tuesday in St. John’s.

The mood will be at a different level for Ceci, of course. He’s an Ottawa kid who played four seasons with the 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League and was drafted 15th overall by the NHL Senators in 2012. After a quick start to his career, he was eventually forced into a role as a shut-down defender, a position that he was ill-suited for. Accordingly, he became the poster boy for everything and anything that went wrong inside the defensive zone in recent seasons.

Borowiecki said he did a “double take” when Ceci first wore his Maple Leafs gear (he’s also wearing 83 now) at an informal skate in Ottawa in August.

He suggested it might be easier for Ceci to get through his return to the building by playing in an exhibition game.

“I think it’s good for everyone to get it out of the way in the pre-season,” Borowiecki said. “There’s a little less anxiety about it. There’s already enough pressure in the regular season. It’s good for guys to get their feet wet a little bit. On our side, too.

THE LOGAN BROWN WATCH: Among the endless storylines to watch Wednesday (including how Zaitsev looks on defence beside Thomas Chabot and whether the Tkachuk-Colin White-Connor Brown line has chemistry) is the on-going trial by Logan Brown to wedge his way into an offensive role with the Senators.

“Those intrasquad games are good, but they are pretty choppy with not that much structure,” the 6-6, 223-pound centre said. “So, I’m excited to get into a game against a real team and show them what I can do.”

Logan Brown gave a pair of thumbs-up as the Senators began training camp with medicals and fitness testing. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia

Brown has had some solid moments so far — he showed off his vision to set up Max Lajoie for a goal in an intense scrimmage Sunday — but he knows he’s must push even harder to find his way onto a team that already has White, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Artem Anisimov and Chris Tierney pencilled in at centre.

“I’ve got to keep bringing more things to the table and create plays,” Brown said. “It’s a tryout and it’s against another team, so it’s definitely going to be big.”

PAUL’S PUSH: Brown and 6-3, 219-pound Nick Paul proved to be an imposing force playing together with Belleville last season and they’ve been on a line (with Max Veronneau) since training camp started. The more success now, the better their chances are of making the opening-game lineup, but they aren’t really fighting for the same spot. Paul’s goal is to land a fourth-line position. “I know my role here,” he said. “There’s a spot for me to come in and bring energy and throw my body around. I’m not going to be a skilled guy (in Ottawa). I know I’m a forecheck, backcheck player and if the opportunity comes in offensive zone, I’m going to take it because I can capitalize.” Paul had only one goal and one assist in 20 games in Ottawa last season, but scored 16 goals and 23 assists in 43 games in Belleville.

Nick Paul. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia

A HOMECOMING, OF SORTS: Holding a morning skate in Ottawa, leaving immediately for St. John’s and flying home after the game made for a long Tuesday for all involved, but there was no complaining coming from Drake Batherson, who was to played on a line with Anthony Duclair and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. “I’m excited about going to Newfoundland,” he said following the morning skate at Canadian Tire Centre. “My whole mom’s side of the family is from there. We used to go fishing there all the time, so it will be a cool experience, for sure.”… After spending the opening days of camp as a defensive pair, Ron Hainsey and Erik Brannstrom were broken up for the back-to-backs against the Maple Leafs. Brannstrom went to St. John’s, lining up beside Dylan DeMelo, while Hainsey stayed at home.

SCHOOL IS IN SESSION: Senators head coach D.J. Smith has had fun at the tail end of training camp workouts, asking players to answer trivia questions to avoid extra wind sprints. But, just like the games to come, Smith said the queries would get trickier. “I’ve given them a few lob balls here early to let them learn the game, but then they will get harder as we go.” Would math be involved, asked TSN’s Brent Wallace. “Absolutely,” Smith said. “Math, spelling…we bring it all out.”

Senators coach D.J. Smith Julie Oliver / Postmedia

 

kwarren@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren


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