BOSTON -- There can be no confusion as to where John Paddock sat on The Great Defenceman Debate of 2006.
Oh sure, the Senators coach likes Wade Redden -- maybe a whole bunch -- but he absolutely loves Zdeno Chara.
Now that he gets to a podium every day, Paddock takes any and all opportunities to sing the Big Zee's praises. And yesterday, with his team about to fly off to face Chara and the rejuvenated Bruins, a chance to belt out a new chorus presented itself.
Paddock pointed out the B's had "no defensive structure" last season, Chara's first in Beantown since losing to Redden in the Which One Do We Keep sweepstakes the John Muckler regime held in Ottawa.
"As wonderful a defensive player as he is, Zee couldn't do it by himself," Paddock said, adding that under Claude Julien's coaching, Chara is "back to being the type of player he was with us."
Such a quiet compliment to the perennial Norris Trophy contender, except that it was about the 47th from Paddock in three months. Some words tend to get louder the more often they are spoken.
Paddock also made it clear that he believes a key tonight will be how the Dynamic Duo of Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza fares against Chara.
On Saturday, Heatley became the first Senator ever to string together three straight multi-goal games, while Spezza was taking over the league assists.
"I don't think I'm doing anything special," said Heatley, who now has 20 goals on the season and 200 in his 385-game career. "I don't think I'm getting any more glorious chances than I did the week before. Just a couple of good shots, a couple of deflections off defencemen sticks ...."
Against Chara, Heatley said his line has "to dump the puck in a lot and don't let him stand up on you at the blue line."
Paddock says the Dynamic Duo will have to be at the top of their game.
"They've never had a lot of success against Zee," Paddock said of Heatley and Spezza.
"I think they're up for the challenge. They're at the top of their game. They're playing a team that checks the crap out of everybody they play."
Scorers at the top of their game, vs. a defenceman at the top of his game in a battle of the top two teams in the East.
But it is only one regular-season game. Whoever falls, won't have far to go -- unless it's the 6-foot-9 Chara.
BETWEEN THE PIPES: Martin Gerber will make his third straight start, even though Ray Emery's hip is not preventing him from playing. During the losing streak Paddock went to the hot goalie. That's not the case anymore. "Ray will start a game soon. I believe. I think," Paddock said ... Gerber again looks like the Gerber who was the among the league's best goalies in the first month, not the Gerber of three weeks ago who looked like the Gerber of last season. "It was more a frustration level when I didn't play the way I wanted to."
ICE CHIPS: Former Bruin Shean Donovan says the problem in Boston last season was one of unfamiliarity. "It was all new," said Donovan, traded to the Senators for Peter Schaefer in the off-season. "From the captain to the coach to the GM. They put 20-some guys together and everybody had to introduce themselves." ... Along on the trip is Glen Richardson, father of Senators defenceman Luke and a pillar of the Ottawa hockey community.