Final cuts won't be easy, says GM

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

As the Senators enter their final week of training camp, plenty of questions remain.

Is Chris Kelly or Patrick Eaves ready to make to the jump to the NHL or should the club go with veteran winger Denis Hamel?

Can Brian McGrattan be a legitimate fourth-liner?

Who'll earn the final spot on the blue line? Christoph Schubert or Andrej Meszaros?

While there aren't many spots available on the Senators roster, GM John Muckler said yesterday that he and coach Bryan Murray have a lot of work to do before the final cuts are made.

"You're asking me questions right now that I can't answer," Muckler said in a conference call yesterday. "These are things that Bryan Murray and I are going to have to sit down and discuss ... probably after we play Pittsburgh Thursday.

"I've been very pleased with the level of competition in camp. It has been excellent and we've had some good battles for jobs. I've also been happy with the way our returning players have performed. Now, we need to step it up a bit and get better."

The Senators have maintained, with the $39-million US salary cap in place, they're only going to carry the minimum of 20 players on the roster. That means nobody is going to be kept around for an extra look when the puck is dropped Oct. 5 for the season opener vs. the Leafs in Toronto.

That gives the Senators four pre-season games to make their decisions.

VARADA ON MEND

Muckler revealed yesterday that Vaclav Varada's MCL injury might not be as bad as originally thought.

Varada is ahead of schedule and could begin skating soon, Muckler said.

"He's ahead of the six weeks we originally thought and he could be back sometime around the opening game depending on the progress he makes. Right now, we're not sure, but that's going to play a role in our decisions," said Muckler.

One player who has already made the team is winger Brandon Bochenski. He has five goals in four pre-season games -- including a hat-trick and an assist in Sunday's 7-4 victory over the Leafs.

"It's not a surprise. We always knew that he could score goals," said Muckler. "The thing we were wondering about was how he would perform defensively. He's done some good things and I believe that he has improved in that area."

That means there are only two more forward positions open. It's almost a certainty Eaves will be sent to the minors and the club has to decide exactly where McGrattan fits in.

A penalty-killing job will go to either Hamel or Kelly.

On defence, Meszaros and Schubert have both done good jobs pushing.


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