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Senators say it was an easy decision to hang on to promising rookie Lazar

11/05/2014 04:57 EST | Updated 01/05/2015 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - Now that Curtis Lazar has secured his spot on the Ottawa Senators' roster, his next order of business will be seeing if he can extend his stay in teammate Chris Phillps' basement.

"I guess that's the next discussion we're going to have," the rookie forward said with a smile. "I woke up this morning to congratulations cards from all the kids, so that was cool."

The Senators confirmed Wednesday that Lazar would be dressing for his 10th game Thursday night and will not be returned to the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings.

The decision was not surprising, as the 19-year-old has fit in nicely with the Senators since the start of the season.

Lazar got the news shortly after the Senators 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night.

"(Assistant general manager) Pierre Dorion tracked me down and we went to (GM) Bryan Murray's office and he asked me if I wanted to stay and I gladly accepted the offer," said Lazar. "It's another step. I'm going to be here past that nine-game mark that's pretty cool, but then again I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. At any point I could get sent back. I just have to continue to working hard, that's the biggest thing.

"It's a huge honour for myself."

Senators coach Paul MacLean had been guarded in his evaluation of Lazar throughout the process, but on Wednesday he finally gave Lazar praise for his performance.

"It was a very easy decision to keep Curtis," said MacLean. "The way that he played. The consistency that he's shown. He's shown the ability to adapt to the game and to raise the level of his game. We feel very comfortable and confident in him staying here is going to make us a better team."

The decision means Lazar's entry-level deal will now kick in regardless of whether or not the Senators choose to send him back to junior at some point.

Despite just nine NHL games to his credit, Lazar has played with a maturity well beyond his 19 years.

"He's got real good hockey sense," said MacLean. "He seems that he's in the right place a lot. He just knows where to go and that's probably his best skill is that he knows where to go."

Lazar's teammates weren't surprised that he would be remaining in Ottawa.

"He's earned the right to be here," said Bobby Ryan. "At times you've got to remember he's 19 because he comes in the room and he's so professional already. I don't think there was any doubt in our minds in the room that he was staying."

The Senators have been using youth to their advantage as Lazar, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone have been one of the team's most productive lines of late.

"Right now they're a goal-a-game line for us," MacLean said. "We project going forward they're going to be very consistent players for us and we believe that Curtis playing in the centre ice position is his best position. How high he ends up playing in the lineup I'm not sure because I don't number them one, two, three four, but I know he plays between 12 and 15 minutes a night. Does he get to 15-20 that's going to depend on how they play."

In the coming weeks the Senators will need to make another roster decision. The team is currently carrying the maximum 23 players, but when defenceman Marc Methot returns to the lineup a move will need to be made.

Lazar, a native of Salmon Arm, B.C., is looking forward to celebrating with his family next week as the Senators head out on a three-day western road trip starting in Vancouver Tuesday night.

Notes: Phillips was given a maintenance day and will be a game-day decision Thursday. He left Tuesday's game with a lower body injury. MacLean did not name his starting goaltender for Thursday's game against the Minnesota Wild. D Mark Borowiecki could return after missing the last three games with an undisclosed injury. RW Alex Chiasson is expected to return to the lineup after missing Tuesday's game.

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