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Russ Cohen | NHL.com correspondent
Jan 5, 2007, 12:00 PM EST


Some players are meant to be top liners, while others are destined to be role players. But when a young player is trying to crack the lineup of a very talented team, it often means the player has to adapt to the needs of the team.

Patrick Eaves was always a top-liner wherever he played until he became a regular for the Ottawa Senators. Right now, at age 22, Eaves is happy to be in the NHL and he is willing to play as many minutes as coach Bryan Murray will allow.

“You're always fighting for minutes on a team like this," Eaves said. “We do have a lot of good players, so you just have to work hard every day and try to get more ice time and improve in practice.”

With stars like Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Daniel, Alfredsson and Antoine Vermette, Eaves isn’t a candidate to play on the Senators' top two lines. He has been playing on the third and fourth lines, and when he is on the ice, Eaves makes things happen. He is a strong skater and has a nifty backhand that he isn’t afraid to use. That’s old school because there aren’t many players who can score with that shot anymore.

Obviously, Eaves has been well coached over the years. His father, Mike, played eight seasons in the NHL for the Minnesota North Stars and Calgary flames in the late 1970’s and early '80s. Taking up coaching after his retirement, father coached son at his current job, the University of North Dakota, and also in the 2004 World Junior Championships where Team USA won its first-ever gold medal.

Did playing for his father add extra pressure for Eaves?

“Oh no,” he said. “No. My dad was always good. Whatever happened at the rink stayed at the rink. That’s where we left it and it didn’t hurt our relationship at all. It was a great experience. We were over in Helsinki, Finland in my last year. I was 19-years-old. I still have bonds with guys that I was over there with.”

If anything, playing for his father probably gave the younger Eaves a leg up on some of the other young men. His dad could let him know what was expected of him that moment and could also let him know what would be expected when and if he made it to the NHL.

The Senators have a definite plan for developing players. Ottawa never rushes young players and when they join the team, they are expected to earn their ice time.

“It’s a good challenge everyday to go to the rink,” he said. “Due to injuries and what-not, you have to be able to adapt. Some days you are a checker and some days you are looked at as a line to score on. I mean its just part of the game and you just have to adapt.”

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