Turris needs to find a niche with Senators

OTTAWA — Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean says all that Kyle Turris has proven so far in his young career is that he belongs in the big leagues.

The next step is to carve out a niche for himself.

“Once you get experience in the league and establish yourself in the league as a certain type of player, it becomes easier to meet those expectations,� MacLean said Monday. “Kyle, right now, really, the only thing he has established is that he’s an NHL player, an NHL talent, but what type of player and how good he can be in the league, I don’t think he has done that.

“We’re looking forward to giving him that opportunity.�

Considering that Turris was selected third overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007, his NHL numbers — 19 goals and 27 assists in 137 games — have been mediocre to date. Yet the Senators are immediately providing Turris, 22, with the chance to be a second-line centre, playing behind Jason Spezza.

Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres, Turris will have Nick Foligno and Erik Condra on his wings. MacLean isn’t going to mess with first-line success and will keep Daniel Alfredsson and Colin Greening with Spezza, after the line combined for four goals and eight points in Friday’s 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Zack Smith, Peter Regin and Chris Neil also practised on a line together Monday, with Jesse Winchester, Zenon Konopka and Kaspars Daugavins making up the fourth unit.

MacLean says development with young players is “never in a straight line� and Turris, acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday in a trade for defenceman David Rundblad and a second-round pick next summer, was clearly rushed into the NHL too soon.

He left the University of Wisconsin early, scoring eight goals and 12 assists in 63 games with Phoenix in 2008-09. Yet Turris clashed with current coach Dave Tippett and spent most of the following season with San Antonio of the American Hockey League.

He posted modest numbers last season with Phoenix — 11 goals and 14 assists in 65 games — prompting his demand for a trade and nasty holdout that lasted until he signed his two-year, $2.8-million US contract in mid-November.

Turris played only six games with Phoenix this season, registering no points, and a trade was the only way to satisfy both Turris and the Coyotes. He didn’t go into details on what went so wrong, twice describing it as a “weird situation,� but he smiled his way through practice Monday, ecstatic at having a fresh start.

He says he’s looking forward to the attention that comes from his new environment in Canada.

“I don’t think I’ve seen this many cameras for a number of years,� Turris said. “It’s a different kind of pressure, but I’m ready for it. I’m real excited to get started.�

Turris roomed with Spezza when the two represented Canada at the IIHF world championship in Quebec City in 2007, but his only strong relationship with anyone in the organization is with Binghamton defence prospect Patrick Wiercioch.

Wiercioch, currently sidelined after taking a puck in the throat two weekends ago, and Turris are old hockey friends.

“Patty is one of my best friends,� he said. “We grew up, from when we were eight or nine years old, playing together. He has been kind of going through a tough time, but I’m talking to him every day. He’s recovering fast.�

As Turris took the ice wearing a Senators sweater for the first time, Spezza made light conversation, letting him know that nobody cares about the circumstances in Phoenix and that the team is happy to have him on board.

“He’s a good kid, a real easy guy to get along with,� said Spezza. “He’s going to fit in fine with our room.�

MacLean is hoping to see the type of play Turris showed off in the playoffs last season. MacLean, then an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings, says Turris was one of the Coyotes’ “top five� forwards when Detroit defeated Phoenix in a four-game sweep.

Ottawa Citizen

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