Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa Senators Forward Chris Neil Set to Play in 1,000th Career Game

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa Senators Forward Chris Neil Set to Play in 1,000th Career Game

Article excerpt

Senators forward Neil to play 1,000th game

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OTTAWA - From the time he was a child in elementary school, Chris Neil was determined to play in the National Hockey League.

The hard-nosed Ottawa forward not only made it to the NHL, he's set to become just the 52nd player to reach the 1,000-game plateau with the same team. Neil, who first cracked the Senators' lineup in 2001, will reach the milestone Saturday night in Los Angeles.

"When you first start out you're just excited to get your first game," Neil said Thursday. "And before you know it, you have 100 and then 500 and then over the years they just keep accumulating, and then it's a pretty exciting accomplishment.

"Being with the Senators my whole career has been awesome, it's been an honour to suit up for one team."

Drafted in the sixth round (161st overall) of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Neil has scored 112 goals and added 136 assists over his career. He also sits 22nd on the league's all-time list with 2,492 penalty minutes.

Neil was known as an enforcer-type in his early days. Now 37, he has found a way to remain effective at both ends of the ice as the league has shifted away from fighting.

"When the game started to change I knew I had to trim down weight wise and (I) dropped 15 pounds and it's made a difference for me," said Neil. "I've always worked hard and take pride in my conditioning, and make sure to work hard in the off-season and keep myself in the best shape possible and I think that's paid off, especially later in my career. "

A solid fourth-line player, Neil understands the game is changing. But he still values the importance of players who are willing to stand up for teammates.

"It's the toughest job in hockey because you can never take a night off," he said. "I have so much respect for the guys I have to go up against.

"It doesn't matter if you have friends on the other team you're going out and playing hard and trying to keep guys honest. …

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