Sens fear worst for Milan

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The Senators were concerned about another loss in the hours leading up to Monday's clash with the Habs.

The loss of Milan Michalek.

While Ottawa was wrestling with Montreal for playoff position, the first-line left winger was back in the nation's capital having an MRI done on his left knee. Michalek hurt it crashing into a goalpost Thursday in Atlanta. At the time, it looked pretty bad. But while Michalek gave the knee a quick test at practice Friday, coach Cory Clouston said it was believed the injury to be not as serious as originally feared.

After Monday's morning skate, Clouston said it now could be.

The results of the MRI will be revealed by the team at Tuesday's morning skate. With the playoffs only three weeks away, the Senators have to be dreading the worst-case scenario.

Conceivably, Michalek's next game could be next October.

That would be a huge blow to a team that has struggled to score of late.

Michalek has cooled off considerably since his torrid start as a Senator, when he lit the lamp 15 times in his first 25 games. But he's still tied for the team lead with 22 goals, and like any squad these days, the Senators can ill-afford to lose someone that is bona fide goal scorer.

They would also dearly miss Michalek's speed and penalty-killing work.

Alas, this is where the Senators' depth kicks in. Taking Michalek's spot alongside Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson currently is Matt Cullen, and with him on the top unit they might not lose a beat. For the most part, Cullen has played well for Ottawa.

At the same time, the chain gets weaker at the other end.

With or without Michalek, now is the time a guy such as Ryan Shannon has to start scoring, once he gets back in the lineup.

Shannon, who was scratched Monday for Bingo callup Zack Smith, has no goals in 21 games.

"The production isn't there," Shannon said after the morning skate. "My game is having the puck and keeping my feet going, being good on the forecheck. That's something I focus on every game. I have yet to be able to consistently put points up.

"My role changes on this team. Sometimes I'll play on the first two lines, sometimes I'll play eight minutes on the fourth line. So my role and my focus each night is a little different. But the biggest thing right now is the production. It's important for me to help the team get points on the board. That's something I want to change.

Shannon wasn't feeling slighted over being benched for a guy who has spent most of the season in the minors.

"Not at all," he said. "To me, it means that it adds competition to stay in the lineup. Right now, it's not about who's better than who. It's about how do we get this team winning. Whatever anybody can do to help, it's going to happen."

It's going to be a little tougher if Michalek is out of the lineup for any length of time.

THINGS I THINK I THINK

Moving was the reception for figure skater Joannie Rochette, who won a medal at the Olympics despite the sudden death of her mother. Decked out in a Habs jersey, Rochette managed to maintain her composure as the fans stood and cheered for her very, very loudly ... Habs F Benoit Pouliot was the victim of Andy Sutton's biggest and best open-ice hit to date as a Senator. Sutton's perfectly timed hip check in the second period put Pouliot on his back ... Senators C Matt Cullen was visibly concerned after his skate clipped Travis Moen's face in a second-period mishap. Moments later, Cullen was sent limping to the bench after blocking a shot with the same foot. He didn't miss a shift, however.

BIG ZAC ATTACK

Zac Rinaldo of the Barrie Colts has likely not seen the last of Marcus Foligno, whom he blindsided in Sunday's OHL meeting with the Sudbury Wolves. "I didn't see the hit yet," Nick Foligno said of the shot his kid brother took, "but I know he's going to make amends for it next game. He's a tough kid. He's one of the best hitters ... unbiasedly, he's really good at hitting guys in open ice." ... Zack Smith said it was a "big surprise" to get called up by the Senators Sunday. It was also a bonus for him to be back in the building he scored his first NHL goal. "I think I've got a little more confidence," said Smith.


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