Matt Murray won’t be the only Ottawa Senator making his season debut Thursday against the Sharks. After missing the first three games due to a contract dispute, Brady Tkachuk will be on the ice and he’s eager to get going.
“It’s been a while since we’ve played, been champing at the bit for a while now and definitely excited to get going,” Tkachuk. “I’m feeling good. The last two team practices I’ve been going up and down the sheet, so I’ve been feeling pretty good, feeling energized and feeling ready to go.”
The Senators are 2-1-0 after spitting their opening two games with the Maple Leafs and then edging the Stars on Sunday evening.
Tkachuk, who was the last unsigned big-name restricted free agent, inked a seven-year, $57.5 million extension last week.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment in getting up to speed with the different types of plays, which usually comes easy by midseason, but at the start it takes time,” said Tkachuk, who was the team’s leading scorer last season with 17 goals and 36 points. “So I think, for myself, just keep it as simple as I can, just move it, skate, get open, and try to really simplify my game and make life easier for [linemates Josh Norris and Drake Batherson].”
Tkachuk had been skating in in Ann Arbor, Mich. at the U.S. National Development Team facility with Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. After the two Canucks signed he was on his own until a deal was hammered out and he could finally re-join his teammates.
[Senators sign Brady Tkachuk to 7-year, $57.5 million contract]
“When you play with emotion in sports, I think you’ve always got a chance, and sometimes you get in games and you see there’s no emotion out there, and he’s a guy that can bring it every night, and when he brings emotion our guys feed off of that,” said Senators head coach D.J. Smith.
Tkachuk’s return coincides with Erik Karlsson first game in Ottawa since Oct. 27, 2019. Karlsson was the franchise’s last captain in 2017-18 and it’s very possible that Tkachuk succeeds him as team leader in the near-future. Though any talk about putting the ‘C’ on his sweater is not an urgent matter at the moment.
“I don’t think that’s on anybody’s mind right now,” said Tkachuk, who will don an ‘A’ for now. “For me, I’m just happy to be back with my teammates. It’s about leadership and everybody in that room is a leader. The leadership group is everybody pulling in the right direction and everybody leads in their own way whether it’s on the ice or off the ice.
“Everybody has an impact and there’s countless great leaders in that locker room. Nobody is thinking about that right now and everybody just wants to keep progressing every single day. Everybody has an impact on leadership.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.