One sure way to know life has changed dramatically for Stéphane Da Costa?

The native of Paris was answering questions Tuesday in his native French as well as in English after he completed practice at Canadian Tire Centre as part of the 22-player Ottawa Senators opening night roster.

For most of the past two seasons Da Costa has been in Binghamton N.Y. where well there wasn’t that much call for him to his French to use.

“I’m definitely excited but I’m not relieved yet” said DaCosta the 24-year-old centre who practised on a line between wingers Zack Smith and Chris Neil on Tuesday. “I’m on a two-way contract (much higher National Hockey League salary only if he remains in the NHL) and I could go down tomorrow or in two months or in two weeks so I’ve got to try my best to stay here all year.”

Da Costa received his NHL spot the old-fashioned way: he earned it. While Mika Zibanejad lost his spot for essentially going through the motions — more on that later — Da Costa responded to the Senators’ challenge to report to training camp in better shape and with a renewed commitment to do everything it took to make the roster. From his summer workouts to his efforts in practices and in games he turned heads of coaches and management.

While Da Costa began the 2011-12 season with the Senators it quickly became clear he wasn’t prepared for the huge jump from Merrimack College to the NHL.

“I feel like I have more experience” Da Costa said. “Two years ago I came out of a 30-game season in college and now I feel I’m a bit more experienced with the (NHL) schedule and a little more built physically.”

Senators coach Paul MacLean says there’s a night and day difference between the Da Costa of then and now. “He couldn’t even play in the league two years ago” the coach said. “He wasn’t strong enough. He wasn’t fit enough. His game wasn’t competitive enough to play in the league.”