OTTAWA — Derick Brassard’s corner locker at the Canadian Tire Centre is about as far away from the door of the room as possible.
After Thursday’s morning skate ahead of Game 1 of the Senators’ Eastern Conference semifinal series, the former Rangers center had taken off his No. 19 jersey and fiddled with the red string on his hockey pants as he politely, as has been his trademark, answered questions in English and French.
He rose to shake hands with a few familiar faces from the New York press, then sat and began toying with the string again as if it were some type of tactile support for his responses.
After all, it has been 10 months of constant changes for Brassard, 29, who openly says he had some difficulty adjusting both personally and professionally in coming here, so close to home.
“The way we play is totally different than what I was used to in New York,” said Brassard, who scored 14 goals and totaled 39 points in 80 games, but had eight points in the first-round edging of the Boston Bruins.
“It took me a while to adjust, but my game is growing since the beginning of the season. It was a little different from the first time I got traded [from Columbus]. This time I got traded in the summer. Coming here, to my home town, it was a little different than just taking a plane at 7 o’clock.”
You don’t just shake off four years in pro sports. It was difficult to adjust off the ice, especially the first couple months.
“Living in the big city and now in a neighborhood,” he said. “I had [Ryan] Dzingel living with me this year, a younger guy and it really helped me.”
Eventually, the team “bought into the system we’re playing here and it’s good to be back in the playoffs and have a chance to advance in the second round,” Brassard said. “But it was a little bit more pressure. Here, your parents and your family, they’re always supportive and sometimes when things aren’t going well, they’re affected by it because they’re going to hear it from other friends or other members of the family, which is different than New York or Columbus.”
On the ice, he said, “I don’t think there’s another team in the league that plays our style, at first it took me a while to adjust to new linemates, we changed lines every day, and we had a new coach, it was the same thing for every guy here. He [Guy Boucher] had to get to know everyone; after Christmas, everything got in place. Even now though, the lines are changing every day. . . . I wasn’t as productive as last year, but you look at the power play, I have to be obviously better next year. With Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur pretty much hurt for a big part of the season . . . now we have two units and I have a chance to make a difference.”
The trade from the Rangers to the Senators for Mika Zibanejad has been a topic in newspapers and on the radio each time the teams have met this season.
“I’m not taking this adversely at all, I got traded for a young centerman,” Brassard said. “I felt like I brought a lot to the team in four years and they got a pretty good asset in return.”
He still speaks occasionally to his long-time pal, Mats Zuccarello, as well as Kevin Hayes, Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider, but this is all business for the next two weeks.
Although Montreal, the Blueshirts’ first-round opponent, is a division rival, and it was good to see them lose, Brassard said.
“We didn’t pick the Rangers. We expect a hard series,” he said. “They’ve been contenders for the last four years, well-coached, we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them. Some of the guys ask me questions about the way they play, but we’re not going to change our style just because we’re playing them. We don’t give up a lot of 3-on-2s or 2-on-1s, and we’re confident of our chances. We’re here for a reason.”