OTTAWA — Curtis Lazar believes he can be an NHL centre, but for now he’s willing to play wherever the Ottawa Senators need him.
Since the start of the season the 20-year-old forward has seen time on all four lines and has played all three forward positions.
“It’s actually been pretty tough, I’m not going to lie about that, but I think I’ve handled myself well,” he said. “I’m going out there regardless which shift, who I’m out there with or what position wanting to try and make a difference.
“That’s kind of my mindset going ahead. I’ve felt I’ve done that, especially the last couple of games. I’m feeling better with the puck, I’m skating more, it’s coming. I’m getting that confidence back because it does take some time to find your place.”
Senators general manager Bryan Murray has been pleased with Lazar’s play, but admits the situation isn’t ideal.
“I don’t know that we’re being fair to him totally, playing centre, left wing, right wing, not having a niche right now on the hockey team other than he’s in the lineup every night,” said Murray. “He does kill penalties and he’s getting on the power play a bit, but, like Curtis, at some point in the very near future we want to find a spot for him and let him develop to be the hockey player we think he’s going to be.”
Drafted 17th overall in 2013, Lazar understands there are certain expectations of him and that most fans who look at his two goals are probably disappointed, but Lazar believes he’s played well enough to earn the trust of head coach Dave Cameron.
“Dave has relayed the message to me that’s he’s confident in me to get the job done whether I’m at centre, left wing or right wing. I’m playing on my off-wing right now. That’s a tough thing to do in this league, but as a 20-year-old who still only has under 100 games experience it’s tough so I take it with a grain of salt. I’ve always been a guy that says things happen for a reason so just be positive moving ahead.”
Ideally Murray would like for Lazar to have a set spot in the lineup in order for him to gain some experience, but says it’s just not that easy right now.
“I think he should play both, but we should decide fairly soon,” said Murray. “He wants to be a centre-ice man, it’s where he played in junior. I think there’s a time that we’ll have to find that out for ourselves and give him 10 or 15 games in a row to see what he can do, but the way we’re set up right now with (Jean-Gabriel) Pageau and (Zack) Smith at three and four it’s hard to knock one of those two guys out at the moment.”
The Senators GM also took the time to address his thoughts on the team’s performance as a whole as they approach the 20-game mark.
“We’re not totally happy with the way the team is playing,” Murray said of the 8-5-5 Senators. “Standing wise we’re OK, but we just think we should be playing a better game.
“I think our expectations were higher than playing around the .500 level. I think our team is better than that. It looks to me talent wise that we can match against a lot of the good teams.”
Murray acknowledged the team has struggled in its own end and often made things look more difficult than they are, but doesn’t see a need for any drastic changes.
“I think we have a good enough defence, but they’re not playing good enough. I think we expect more from (Patrick) Wiercioch and (Jared) Cowen without a doubt. I’m very pleased with (Chris) Wideman the way he’s come up and played. It looks like he’s going to buy more ice time because of it. I think our top three guys are playing pretty well and (Mark) Boro (Borowiecki) is what he is. If we’re trying to fill one spot Patrick or Jared have to take a step and demand to get that role and take advantage of it.’