GARRIOCH: GM Pierre Dorion says target is ‘meaningful games’ late in the season for Senators

“We want to be there by the trade deadline.”

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The goal of the Ottawa Senators this season is to try and book a ticket to the NHL’s playoff dance.

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They make no promises.

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After an off-season with dramatic additions to the roster by general manager Pierre Dorion, coach DJ Smith and the rest of the hockey operations staff, the senators hope the changes they’ve made will pay off with a trip into the postseason. .

Training camp kicked off on Wednesday when 59 players reported to the Canadian Tire Center for medical and fitness testing. On Thursday, the work begins in earnest as the first group takes to the ice at 9:00 am to kick off the 2022 campaign.

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The roster has been upgraded with the addition of forwards Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux and Tyler Motte, along with goalkeeper Cam Talbot. The club hopes the changes will give the senators a chance to be competitive.

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“We want to play meaningful games at the end of the year,” Dorion said during a press conference at the ice rink on Wednesday. “We want to be there by the trade deadline.”

The senators wanted to surround their core with players who can help them take the next step. The hope is that the players brought in can help Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Tim Stutzle and Thomas Chabot.

Smith feels the excitement in the city and in the room.

“This is a marked difference from any other year I’ve been here,” said Smith, who is heading into his fourth season behind the bench. “The addition of DeBrincat and Giroux along with these young children has really brought a buzz to the city.

“It’s an exciting time. You have to be honest, and part of a refurbishment is being beaten, and we had to lick hard many nights. These kids are excited to fight back for their city. So do we as technical staff and we want to make everyone proud. We were on the golf course (Tuesday) and people are just as excited as I’ve certainly seen a season go into effect.

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“Now it’s up to us to make them proud.”

Getting to the play-offs may be a challenge, but being in the mix in March is the right mindset for this team. DeBrincat is a two-time 40-goal goalscorer and Giroux has played more than 1,000 games in his NHL career. They both need to make an impact ahead of time.

But if you make as many changes as the Senators did, finding the right chemistry will be a factor before the club opens the season in Buffalo on October 13.

“The camp itself is about making sure we’re all on the same page when we start,” Smith said. “Part of having a team that comes back and has very few changes or the changes that are made with NHL bodies is you know what you’re starting with.

“You can get that group together, you can practice together and they know what they are doing. The best teams all know where the puck is going. When you’re young and you move guys in or guys out, guys up and down and you don’t know who’s making the team, it’s hard to practice like that.

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‘Because you really don’t know who deserved it. I think this year will be different and we will be really prepared when we start, but so will the other good teams.”

One of the best fights in the camp is the defense.

Top prospect Jake Sanderson has been added to the mix and he will start with veteran Travis Hamonic while Chabot will be paired up with the trusty Artem Zub.

The club has seven defenders who can play with Nikita Zaitsev, Nick Holden and Erik Brannstrom there so they should be pushing each other for game time.

“I want to see at the back where everyone fits,” Smith said. ‘Who took a step? Who better to come back than last year? That will be exciting for me there.”

20-year-old Sanderson will have no shortage of eyes in this camp. There has been a lot of talk about Dorion bringing in another defender, but the club’s No. 5 in the 2020 NHL draft may be just what the club needs to fill the void.

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Sanderson was impressive in the match in which he matched the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, but the real test will come when the preseason starts on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Let’s be clear, and this is to take some of the pressure off the kid, the rookie tournament is a long way from this exhibition game against (Auston) Matthews and (Mitch) Marner in three days,” said Smith. “Jake is going to be a great player and we know that.

“But there are a lot of growing pains and he’s still a young guy. We are very happy where he is and the city should be happy, but there is a big difference between last week’s game (in Buffalo) and what we are going to play here.”

BGarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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