By Mike McMahon
---- — Former Merrimack College winger Stephane Da Costa will start the season with the Ottawa Senators after making improvements in several areas this off-season.
Da Costa has been filling in on Ottawa’s top line between Milan Michalek and Bobby Ryan while Jason Spezza has been sidelined with a groin injury.
Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean told the Ottawa Sun: “We believe now he can play in the NHL at any position, whether it’s a top-six role or bottom six. He can come in and help our team.”
The Senators, who re-signed Da Costa to a one-year contract over the summer, asked the former All-American to bulk up and work on his play in the defensive zone.
“We’ve asked him to have a better fitness level, a better competition level, and play better defensively. And he’s done all those things,” said MacLean. “And if people are doing things that you ask them to do, I think you have to acknowledge that and then give them the opportunity. He’s made those things and he’s making it difficult for us to make decisions, which is what we like.
“It was good to see he took direction and brought it, but we knew he’d come in and be ready to compete for a job. So it didn’t surprise me, no.”
According to the Sun, Da Costa added 10 pounds of muscle over the summer working out with his brother in Poland.
“I’m happy to be in this locker room right now, but it took a lot of hard work, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to stay here and play well,” he said.