Even Chris Kelly Needs a Scorecard to Know All the Senators, But Is Still Excited to Face Former Team

Even Chris Kelly Needs a Scorecard to Know All the Senators, But Is Still Excited to Face Former Team WILMINGTON, Mass. — Chris Kelly admits that it will be a little strange to see the Ottawa Senators' sweaters lined up opposite him on Saturday.

Even stranger is the fact that he won't recognize a number of the players wearing those jerseys.

"I know there's three guys that I don't know at all," Kelly said after the Bruins' final regular-season practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday. "The two goaltenders, I don't know them and they signed [Stephane] Da Costa, I think, a younger kid. I have no idea who those guys are. That's kind of rare when you moved only 6-7 weeks ago, and you don't know some of those guys at all. There have been a lot of changes over there."

Kelly came to Boston in exchange for a second-round pick on Feb. 15, part of a major fire sale by the Senators as they dealt away a number of veterans ahead of the trade deadline to accelerate their rebuilding project.

The rebuilding continued with Ottawa acquiring goalie Craig Anderson from Colorado on Feb. 18 and claiming netminder Curtis McElhinney on waivers from Tampa Bay on Feb. 28. Da Costa, a center out of Merrimack College, was signed as an undrafted free agent on March 31 after his college season concluded.

Kelly actually made his Bruins debut against the Senators in Ottawa on Feb. 18, and played there again on March 1 as Boston completed a 6-0-0 road trip in Ottawa. But Saturday's final regular-season game at the Garden will be the first time he takes on his old team in Boston. 

"It's funny, I played two games in Ottawa as a Bruin before I ever played a home game here," Kelly said. "That's something to tell the kids later on."

Even having played the Senators twice, Kelly is still excited to face his former club. Kelly was drafted by Ottawa in 1999 and played 463 games over seven seasons with the Senators before the trade to Boston, so he's never before had to take on his ex-team.

"I think it will always be kind of special to play them, unless I move 12 more times in my career, then maybe it won't be so special," Kelly joked. "To be with them so long and even though this will be the third time, to play them will still be a little weird."

Kelly has fit in well with his new team. His offensive production has been modest with 1-3-4 totals in 22 games, but he's won 53.1-percent of the draws he's taken, played a key role on the penalty kill and chipped in 28 hits and 18 blocked shots while averaging 14:55 of ice time. He's also formed some solid chemistry with fellow newcomer Rich Peverley on both the third line and as a PK pairing, and fit in seamlessly in the Bruins' locker room.

But Kelly will still make time to catch up with a few old friends this weekend when the Senators visit.

"I'll probably have dinner with a few of them," Kelly said. "I'm still friends with a lot of those guys. It's their last game [Saturday] and obviously we're moving forward [to the playoffs], so just to see them and kind of wish them luck over the summer will be nice."

The Senators have long been eliminated from playoff contention, but they have been playing well of late as the youngsters called up to replace the departed veterans try to prove they belong in the NHL and play for contracts next year. Ottawa beat Montreal 3-2 in overtime on Thursday and downed Philadelphia 5-2 on Tuesday, so Kelly knows the Bruins will have their hands full on Saturday against the Senators.

"It's an opportunity for some of those guys to prove they can play in the NHL," Kelly said. "They've done a great job, and some of them will end up earning a spot on that team next year and having a career in the NHL. And maybe they wouldn't have gotten that opportunity if things hadn't gone south for us."

Kelly also stressed that these final two regular-season games are an opportunity for the Bruins as well. Boston will look to fine tune its game and build some momentum heading into the postseason.

"There's 82 games for a reason," Kelly said. "The Ranger game I thought was a good lesson learned, being up by three and letting a team come back and beat you [5-3 on Monday]. You can learn lessons in the first two games or you can learn them in the last couple games. We need to approach these games that way and be playing well going into the playoffs."

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