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HomePolitics newsDrake Batherson puts up the numbers, just like another Senators No. 19

Drake Batherson puts up the numbers, just like another Senators No. 19

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Drake Batherson is honoured that his name is being mentioned in the same breath as former Senators star centre Jason Spezza, but there are some intriguing similarities in their careers.

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In addition to wearing Spezza’s former No. 19, Batherson is now riding an 11-game point scoring streak, the longest mark for a Senator since Spezza turned the trick in 2011-12.

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“When I changed numbers (from 79), I had big shoes to fill and I still have a long ways to go,” Batherson said Wednesday following the team’s skate at the Bell Sensplex. “He was a special player. I grew up watching him and he was unbelievable right up until he retired (last season), with unbelievable skill. He was definitely a guy I looked up to.”

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Maybe there was fate in the air. When Batherson was 12, he paid a visit to Ottawa with his uncle, former Senators tough guy Dennis Vial, and Spezza took a picture with him and gave him a stick. A couple of summers ago, Batherson and Spezza had dinner together in Montreal.

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And just like Spezza, who needed to improve his defensive game in order to earn the trust of his coaches, Batherson recognizes the need to be more solid on both sides of the puck as his career develops. He currently owns a plus/minus of minus 23, second-worst in the NHL behind Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues.

“When you’re a young guy, you’re paid to produce and help the team win, and some days that’s all you want to do is think offence,” he said. “But if you look around the league at guys like (Brad) Marchand and (Patrice Bergeron), they’ve produced for so many years, but they’re also the first over the bench for a penalty kill. Those are the guys I look up and hopefully be like one day.”

As for taking aim at the franchise record for most consecutive games with at least one point, he’s only halfway there. Dany Heatley went on a 22-game streak during the 2005-06 season.

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When Nikita Zaitsev went down early Tuesday, the club’s other five defencemen needed to pick up the slack. Most notable was the ice time for Thomas Chabot (31:04) and the career-high total of 27:13 for rookie Jake Sanderson.

Sanderson ranks first in total ice time for NHL rookies (713:35) and he’s second behind Buffalo’s Owen Power in per-game average for first-year players.

“It’s his skating, his conditioning,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “(The Bruins) are coming at you with four lines and six defencemen. They are jumping all over the place. They’ve got (future) Hall of Famers over there and (Sanderson) did really well. He defended some of them really well, skated by some of them and created some offence. He’s going to be a real good player.”

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There could be a light at the end of the injury tunnel for the Senators on defence. Artem Zub, who has been out of the lineup since Dec. 2 with a broken jaw, travelled with the club to Washington and could be back playing within the next couple of games.


Josh Norris has yet to receive medical clearance to return to game action from his shoulder injury, but he continues to ramp up the pace of his practice work.

“Part of it is confidence, part of it getting out there (with) reps,” Smith said. “He has been off for a long time, so we want to make sure he’s feeling good. Today was a step in the right direction. He got some reps in real drills.”

Norris hasn’t played since the Senators’ 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 22.

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Somewhat lost in the fanfare over Alex Ovechkin’s individual goal run is the fact the Washington Capitals are surging. On Dec. 5, they were floundering with a 10-12-4 record. Since then, they have gone 10-1-0, including a 3-2 overtime win over the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Dec. 22, climbing all the way into third spot in the Metropolitan Division. “We know how much they can create offence, but no one talks about how little they give up,” said Smith. “They have big defencemen, they’re big down the middle, and they’re starting to get healthy. They’re the hottest team in the league right now. We’re going to have to really check and be a lot better than we were at home for us to get a win there.”

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