OTTAWA – With his name among the NHL goal-scoring leaders, Senators forward Milan Michalek is finally helping Ottawa hockey fans forget all about Dany Heatley.
Michalek entered Tuesday with 16 goals, tied with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Toronto’s Phil Kessel for second overall in the NHL’s goal scoring lead. Chicago’s Jonathan Toews leads the league with 17.
Michalek was acquired in the fall of 2009 when an unhappy Heatley demanded a trade from Ottawa and Senators GM Bryan Murray made a deal with the San Jose Sharks for Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second-round pick.
Ottawa fans were initially unhappy with move, considering Heatley had two 50-goal seasons and was considered a pure goal-scorer, but these days those same fans are coming to appreciate Michalek a lot more.
“There’s no question he was judged a little harder than maybe a normal new player would be,”said Murray.“We knew what we had as far as effort was concerned and now to see the tangible goals that he’s getting for us at important moments in games is sort of the difference from what we saw in the past.”
One of the biggest factors in Michalek’s current season is his health. The past two season’s Michalek has been held to 66 games because of injuries, but this past summer he was able to train hard and so far he’s been rewarded for his hard work.
“I’m confident right now and healthy and I just hope it’s going to stay like that,”said Michalek.
The Senators believe that Michalek’s preparations this past summer were instrumental to his current success.
“He’s the same type of player, but the issue that he had before was injuries,”said Murray.“It certainly affects a player when you don’t get the consistent ice time that you need to develop your game and over the last summer it looks like Milan got himself totally healthy and in great shape. He’s a hard working guy off the ice as well as on the ice and he’s brought to the table that energy and effort and the results are starting to show.”
Should he stay on pace Michalek is surely to surpass his career high 26 goals from the 2006-07 season, but he doesn’t like to think too far ahead.
“It’s nice to be up there with those great guys. I’m happy things are going good for me right now, but the season is long and there’s going to be some up and downs,”said Michalek.“If I can score 30 it would be nice.”
Michalek, who turns 27 on Wednesday, doesn’t enjoy any conversation that includes comparisons between himself and Heatley, but they’re inevitable due to the history behind the trade. The only comment the Czech native offered is to admit“Heater and I are different players; we do different jobs on the ice.”
At the time of the deal most believed the Senators came out on the losing end, but these days Heatley, now playing for the Minnesota Wild, has just eight goals.
Notes: Craig Anderson will get the start Wednesday against the Washington Capitals. … Peter Regin (shoulder) continues to skate with the team, but no date has been set for his return. … D Filip Kuba remains day-to-day.