Ceci settling in with Senators
Defenceman set new career high for ice time against Minnesota
Cody Ceci isn’t allowing himself to get caught up in the bright lights of big National Hockey League arenas or in the high life of charter flights and luxury hotels.
He’s here today, but he says it’s dangerous to start thinking about tomorrow and beyond.
“It’s just kind of going day-to-day, enjoying it as much as possible,” said Ceci, the 20-year-old defenceman who has now played 15 consecutive games on the Ottawa Senators blueline since being recalled from Binghamton of the American Hockey League. “Having that mindset doesn’t allow me to drift. The main thing has got to be to focus on every game, every practice, every shift.”
We hear that all the time from prospects freshly brought up from the minors, afraid their next mistake could be their last one before being sent back to a diet of fast food and lengthy bus rides in the minors.
Yet Ceci, who has scored one goal and three assists and registered a plus/minus of plus-five, has done a remarkable thing during his first month in the NHL: he has changed the complexion of the club’s defensive picture.
Since Ceci has arrived, the Senators have gone 9-4-2 and, as owner Eugene Melnyk said on Monday, the desperate, leaguewide search for a defenceman with offensive instincts has been put on hold. In fact, the Senators are now dealing with the new math problem — that eight defenceman is more than enough. The next move could be subtraction rather than addition.
During Ceci’s stint with the Senators, Patrick Wiercioch has had a stretch of being a healthy scratch for eight of 10 games. Eric Gryba has sat out eight of 13 games. Joe Corvo has missed six of 10 games.
Ceci, meanwhile, played a career high 22:23 in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Minnesota Wild, third-most on the defence behind Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen.
Clearly, Ceci, who was selected 15th overall by the Senators in the 2012 NHL Draft, has maintained the level of play that had Binghamton coach Luke Richardson labelling him as the best player in the AHL at the time of his recall. In talking about Ceci’s current place on the Senators blueline, coach Paul MacLean uses his standby line that “the best players play.”
Eventually, something has to give.
For all that, Ceci hasn’t been told he’s a full-time NHLer just yet. He’s splitting his off-ice time between his parents’ house in Orléans and a hotel room.
“I’m still waiting to get the official word and if I do, I will be really happy, and if not, I will just continue to work my hardest and see what happens,” he said.
While his teammates will take full advantage of the Olympic break next month, Ceci isn’t about to commit to booking a cruise just yet.
“It would be a nice break just to get a couple of weeks off mid-season,” he said. “That would be huge, just to recover and get your mind off it for a little bit, but you never know what’s going to happen. They could just as easily send me down (to Binghamton) and keep me on the ice.”
For now, though, he appreciates that every day in the NHL is a good day.
“It is nice to fly everywhere and get the food that we get and stay in the hotels we do,” he said. “Everything just adds up and it’s a pretty cool thing.”
NEIL RETURNS, PAGEAU DEPARTS
Now that Chris Neil is fully recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered on Dec. 31, the Senators on Wednesday assigned Jean-Gabriel Pageau to Binghamton in order to keep the roster at 23 players. Pageau, who was a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Minnesota, scored one goal in 13 games during his recall from the AHL. For the season, he has two goals in 21 games.
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