Senators weak on defence

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

Call him flamboyant. Outrageous. Or, judging by that eerie twinkle in his eye when he fights, maybe even a wee bit twisted.

But you also have to call Ray Emery indispensable and the Senators took a huge, unnecessary and very stupid risk when they watched their No. 1 goalie and MVP go toe-to-toe with one of the top punchers in the NHL on Thursday.

It could have cost them their hopes and dreams. Essentially, it could have ended their season.

You don't think Andrew Peters has the capability to do that? His NHL fight card is 62 times longer than Emery's. He's tangled with all of the league's big boys. He's hurt some of them, including Brian McGrattan.

One well-placed punch could have shattered Emery's orbital bone. It could have concussed him. It could have done all sorts of damage.

And then what? John Muckler's going to find another No. 1 goalie before the trade deadline? Martin Gerber is going to lead the Senators to the Stanley Cup?

No, someone should have jumped on Peters. Didn't have to be a fighter, either. There were none wearing Senators jerseys on the ice. Wouldn't have even had to be in an honourable manner. Was Peters honourable? Or is seeking out a first-time NHL fighter who is wearing neither a mask nor helmet but plenty of restrictive goalie equipment .... and then not even taking off your own helmet ... is that borderline gutless?

Like the penalized Slapshot character with the French accent, Peters should feel shame. Plenty of it, but not as much as the Senators. One of them had to jump and hold Peters to prevent him from punching the team meal ticket. Dany Heatley, Mike Comrie, Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov and Jason Spezza were on the ice for the line brawl. But once it was obvious one of them wasn't going to do it, somebody other than Bryan Murray (and maybe if he was 61 and not 64, he might have) should have jumped off the bench.

The hell with the fines and suspensions. A little extreme? Sure. But you can't let your No. 1 goalie be subjected to a potential beating. You just can't.

Did the Devils stand around and watch Sean Avery take a shot at Martin Brodeur without doing something about it? Of course not. They swarmed the Rangers pest.

"It used to be if you touched a goalie, you'd get killed," Gerber said the other day. Sure isn't like that in Senators land these days, is it Jim Slater? Just have to watch out for the goalie himself blowing a gasket on you, isn't that right Maxim Lapierre?

How was Peters free to go after Emery in the first place? Lay part of that one on an officiating crew that was responsible for giving the Sabres a 6-on-5 man-advantage before any penalties were called.

"I got put in the box first," Spezza said yesterday with a sarcastic chuckle, "because obviously I was a danger to people."

Yeah, you wouldn't think to get the guy with 350 career PIMs under control first.

The funny thing is, Spezza wasn't even given a penalty. And come to think of it, nobody remembered seeing Volchenkov go to the box, even though the scoresheet says he took his first NHL fighting major.

Not exactly a shining moment for the refs.

"It was a bit of chaos," said Spezza, who admitted he was trying to get free of the ref -- not to track down Peters but to help Volchenkov, who was wrestling with a pair of Sabres. "You just want to help the cause more than anything."

Phillips said his tussle took him down to the corner of the rink, away from Peters and Emery. Did he notice what was going on with those two in time that he could have skated to the aid of his goalie?

"Not to stop it," said Phillips. "I guess to possibly be a third guy in, or get in there."

The theory that it's impossible to break free when you're tied up in a grappling match with another player just doesn't wash. You're not being held at gunpoint. You find a way.

And Heatley shot down the rumour that he can't get into a fight by doctors orders -- that one punch to his previously injured left eye could leave him blind.

"I fought last year in the playoffs," he reminded, referring to the scrap he had with Lightning defenceman Nolan Pratt. "If I have to, it's no big deal."

And Emery being left to trade jabs with Peters wasn't considered cause for alarm?

I don't get it.

"He can hold his own," said Heatley with a common refrain yesterday. "If he's smilin' we're smilin'. He likes to get into it a little bit. He's not a shy guy. I think he had a good time."

Said Spezza: "Razor is Razor. He's been waiting for this for a while. We want to keep him away from fighting because he's really valuable to our hockey club, but Razor did a great job. He likes those situations. We just don't want to put him in too many of them."

Really, you don't even want Emery fighting Biron. Emery has played through a bad wrist most of the season. What if he wrecks it on the noggin' of Buffalo's backup goalie? That's not exactly a fair trade.

"Grats will be in the lineup (tonight)," Spezza said, referring to McGrattan. "I'm sure he'll settle things down a little bit."

Probably, but it's become apparent the Senators need some more muscle. A body protector the coach can feel comfortable dressing every game.

The word is Coyote Georges Laraque is available. Time for Muckler to make another call to his friend Mike Barnett and Wayne Gretzky.


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