OTTAWA - Peter Regin had a strong finish to his rookie season with the Ottawa Senators, but he’s taking nothing for granted this fall.
Coming off a solid playoff and a strong performance at the world hockey championship for his native Denmark, the 24-year-old forward arrived at the Senators’training camp expecting to play a big role in 2010-11.
However, Regin realizes he’ll have a fight on his hands if he wants to grab a spot among the team’s first six forwards.
With Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek forming the team’s top line, there’s an opening on the second unit alongside centre Mike Fisher and winger Alex Kovalev.
Regin is expected to fill that spot after scoring 13 goals in his first full NHL season and adding another three in six playoff contests.
However, he knows the job won't just be handed to him.
"It’s a new season. I had a good playoffs, but it was only six games, so I didn’t really prove anything,”Regin said Friday before travelling to Montreal to play the Canadiens in pre-season action. "I still have to go out and show that I want to play a lot of minutes and that’s my goal for this year for the camp.”
With Chris Kelly, Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu making up the Senators’third line, failing to take advantage of the opportunity will mean a significant drop in ice time each game.
“You want to play as much as possible and there’s a difference between five and 15 minutes,”Regin said.
After he was one of the Senators’best forwards in the team’s first-round loss to Pittsburgh in the spring, he played a big part in helping Denmark reach the quarter-finals of the world championship for the first time with seven points in seven games.
Those performances made people stand up and take notice, but being able to play that way on his consistent basis has eluded Regin so far.
A smart player and swift skater, he’s going to have to contribute at both ends of the rink if he’s going to get a bigger role, said coach Cory Clouston.
“He’s got to be able to complement his two linemates and the big thing with him is to make sure he’s not sacrificing the defensive end just to try to create,”Clouston said.
Regin’s main competition for the spot will be from Nick Foligno. Entering his third full NHL season, the 22-year-old Foligno is looking to make a bigger impact than he did last year, an admitted step back in his progress.
In 2008-09, Foligno chipped in with 17 goals and appeared to have the makings of a solid power forward. However, he missed 21 games last season and slumped to just six goals. He was hardly a factor in the playoffs, recording one assist in six games.
So far in the pre-season, Foligno has made the better impression by scoring in each of his two exhibition games against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I’m pretty happy with the way I’ve started,”Foligno said.“I just wanted to put in the work this summer and I feel like I did that.
“I wanted to come in here and show that I can be that player I was a couple of years. I had spurts of it last year. I don’t think last year was a terrible season; it was just an up-and-down year. I want to be more consistent.”
Foligno, who didn’t travel to Montreal for Friday’s game, worked hard in the off-season to improve his fitness and conditioning. Team management has been happy with the way he’s acquitted himself so far in camp.
“I kind of took a step back this summer and looked at my overall game and just tried to see where I could be better,”Foligno said.“Mentally, as well, I’ve just kind of matured as a player and I’m just trying to contribute every time I’m out there, it doesn’t matter who I’m playing with.”
Clouston said that Foligno would be given his turn to show what he can do with Fisher and Kovalev in the exhibition games. But if he can keep up his level of play so far, Regin may indeed find ice time tougher to come by.
Whoever does emerge from the competition, the Senators stand to benefit from it.
“Whether it’s Petey or I, I think Petey’s going to do a great job, he’s a great player–and we should both be able to play at that top spot and it’s going to make our team better,”Foligno said.“We need to be the good, young forwards that they need going forward. If we do that, I think we’re going to help this team win.”