It’s not every day an NHL team can turn to a former 50-goal scorer for a spark in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the Ottawa Senators did just that by inserting right wing Jonathan Cheechoo into the lineup.
Cheechoo will play against the Penguins tonight in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, and the Senators are counting on him to inject scoring touch to a club that has only three goals in the past two games.
“I just hope he can bring some energy, strong play at the net and, if need be, chip in offensively,” Senators coach Cory Clouston said. “He brings a little bit more speed. Jonathan had a real good playoffs last year. He’s got a history of scoring some goals. That’s right now what we need feel more of. Right now, one shot can change a game and we feel he’s one of those types of players.”
Cheechoo spent six seasons with the San Jose Sharks, scoring 165 goals and 296 points. His most productive season was in 2005-06, when Cheechoo scored 56 goals and finished with 93 points. It was one of four seasons when he has scored 23 or more goals.
“What he’s done goal-scoring-wise in this league is something that all of us in this room can’t fathom,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s certainly going to try to come in and add a spark to his team doing what he does. We have to be aware of situations he’s in and who we’re playing against.
“Fortunately, for them, they can add a player like that.”
Unfortunately, for the Senators, they’ve had to in the aftermath of season-ending knee injuries to forwards Milan Michalek and Alex Kovalev, their third- and fifth-leading goal scorers.
“They’ve had some injuries and have been dealing with that,” Bylsma said. “Now, they get to add an offensive guy, a threat to score goals. It will be our challenge to be aware of situations that he’s in and keep him from becoming an offensive factor in this series.”
Cheechoo had only five goals and 14 points in 61 games with Ottawa this season, and has spent the past two months with Binghamton of the AHL before being called up this week to take advantage of his playoff experience. He is expected to replace Ryan Shannon and skate on the Senators’ fourth line, with Jesse Winchester and Zack Smith.
“It’s something where I’ve been there most of my career,” Cheechoo said. “I know what it takes. It’s a little tougher, a little grittier, fewer calls. You have to battle more to get in front of the net to score goals.
“Hopefully, I can do that.”