Not once but twice Chris Phillips sends Kyle Turris crashing to the ice during one-on-one practice battles.

These are net-drive drills with the forwards demanding space in the crease and the defencemen yielding none.

Now Turris is no slouch as a player. As the Senators No. 2 centre Turris and his new linemates Clarke MacArthur and Cory Conacher could cash in big time if top centre Jason Spezza can stay healthy and occupy rival checkers. But Turris is not the biggest guy sub-200 pounds and he knows when he’s licked smiling as he rises to his feet the second time Phillips knocks him down.

“He’s so strong he’s got that old man strength” Turris says in the dressing room afterwards.

“He has so much experience he doesn’t get out of position very often” Turris adds. “To go up against him is a good challenge it helps prepare me for the games.”

It’s been 16 years since Phillips arrived from Lethbridge Alberta to play his first full season with the Senators as a fresh-faced 19-year-old the Senators first overall pick from the 1996 draft. The wavy dark hair we saw on draft day 1996 is a little thinner today the cherubic face more mature but the Big Rig still stands tall and true on the Senators blueline even as the highly touted youth pass him on the depth chart.

These days when the top four Ottawa defencemen are listed on charts or twitter feeds it’s like Kids’ Day at the Fair. Marc Methot the elder is 28. His partner Erik Karlsson 23 already has a Norris Trophy. Jared Cowen is 22. Patrick Wiercioch 22.

Phillips the longest-serving active Senator with Daniel Alfredsson gone is 35. Only second-time-around Joe Corvo at 36 is older Phillips partner at the moment in the third pairing. Eric Gryba another youngster with promise is 25.

No one talks much any more about Phillips as the “shutdown guy” a role he relished when he played alongside Anton Volchenkov all those years and yet when I ask head coach Paul MacLean point blank if Phillips remains the best pure defender on the blue line MacLean doesn’t hesitate.

“At this point in time yeah.”

So as the focus shifts to Karlsson Methot and the new Cowen-Wiercioch tandem does Phillips feel like a bit of a forgotten man? He laughs out loud at the question.

“You know? What do you do – go out and play the game” Phillips says. “I look at what my role has been the last couple of years; often when we have injuries playing with a guy who’s been called up to fill in and whatever. Help guys out. That’s my role.”

Meet the Big Rig aka the main mentor on the back end. With Sergei Gonchar gone Phillips has even more on his plate as far as guiding young defencemen.

“I accept it and I’m going to do the best job I can” he says. “I’m past that point of worrying about what number I am how much ice time I’m going to get and all that stuff.”