With the off-season departure of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, the Ottawa Senators top line heading into the 2014-15 season will feature Kyle Turris between Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan.
The team’s best line during the 2013-14 season, the trio now has the pressure of getting it done against other team’s top checking units and shutdown defensive pairings.
With Turris leading the way netting 26 goals last season, the trio scored nearly 32 percent of the Senators goals in 2013-14.
“I think we learned a lot from last year,” Turris told NHL.com this week. “I think the previous two years before that was kind of a step forward, and I think last year was a step back. We really got to evaluate everything and it was a great lesson because we learned a lot, we took a lot out of it.”
MacArthur, who scored a career-high 24 goals and 55 points in 79 games last season while riding shotgun with Turris, signed a new five-year, $23 million contract extension on Thursday and is looking forward to a second season playing alongside Turris.
“I think Turris would click with anyone, if they want to say I’m the guy who’s good with him I’ll take it,” MacArthur told the Sens website. “He does everything well. He’s a centreman with great speed, he’s got a great shot, he sees the ice.
“As far as making things easy out there, we obviously have to keep working at it, there’s things we want to improve for sure, but he’s got a good attitude and he’s a player willing to listen to other people’s ideas.”
MacArthur, who spent three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining the Senators, knows about playing under pressure.
“I think when I was in Toronto I came off of a million dollar contract and ended up taking two years at $6.5 million and that was big money for me at the time and you feel a little bit of the pressure. Just because I got a five-year deal doesn’t mean I have to change a whole lot. I want to play the same game.
“As far as what I need to do on the ice, I want to do similar to last year — obviously we want a better result — but for myself I want to try and bring a similar game every night.”
Behind the MacArthur-Turris-Ryan combo is a line likely to feature Milan Michalek, Mika Zibanejad and newcomer Alex Chiasson. Zibanejad and Chiasson have a combined 42 career NHL goals.
The Michalek-Zibanejad-Chiasson trio along with Colin Greening, David Legwand, Mark Stone, Erik Condra, Zack Smith and Chris Neil will all have to pick up the slack as Ottawa looks to return to the playoffs for the third time in four years.
The Senators finished just five points back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot last season with a 37-31-14 record.
The lack of goal-scoring prowess behind the first line also puts pressure on the Turris combo. Ottawa finished 11th in the NHL in goals for last season.
Ryan, 27, who scored 23 goals and 48 points in 70 games will be expected to have a bigger contribution. His first season in Ottawa was a career-worst for the forward, who averaged over 30 goals a season while with the Anaheim Ducks.
It helps that the New Jersey native is a pending unrestricted free agent and has the added motivation of playing for a contract.
MacArthur admitted he’d be having a conversation with Ryan about re-signing long term in Ottawa.
“He’s a player you want on your team,” said MacArthur. “If I can nudge him towards staying I’m definitely going to try to. He’s definitely a complement to our team.”
Murray doesn’t believe contract talks will begin until next month.
“We’ve talked to Bobby at length through his agents,” he told the Sens website. “I believe it will take until he comes to Ottawa for training camp to continue the discussions. He’s one of the next guys we’re definitely going to try to keep here.”
According to Turris, the team needs to get back to the mindset of two seasons ago, where the injury-plagued Senators surprised many by qualifying for the playoffs.
“We need to bring back that consistency and kind of getting back to our pesky ways that we were before,” Turris said. “There are lots of things that we’ve taken into account that we’re going to work on moving forward. We’ll make those corrections and be back to where we want to be this year.”
It’ll have to be a big season for Turris and Co. or else Ottawa will once again be sitting on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.
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