Now, it starts for real

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The auditions came to an end for the Senators last night.

Now, it's time to raise the curtain on the regular season.

The Senators closed out one of the most successful pre-seasons in their history with a 7-1 record after a 3-0 blanking of the Canadiens last night at the Bell Centre. They're just 48 hours away from dropping the puck for real Wednesday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.

Winger Dany Heatley had a three-point night and finished his first exhibition schedule as a Senator with six goals and nine assists. Rookie Brandon Bochenski scored his sixth goal of the exhibition season.

Heatley knows the stakes get much higher starting Wednesday.

"It's a different game in the regular season," he said. "This was only the pre-season and I think you're always ready for the regular season to start. You kind of feel that way about the third (exhibition) game."

Senators GM John Muckler and coach Bryan Murray will sit down today to decide on who will get the final two roster spots. Up front, it's between Denis Hamel, Chris Kelly and tough guy Brian McGrattan.

Though it would appear Hamel is the odd man out, the Senators have to decide just how much of a role McGrattan can play. On defence, it's going to be a matter of deciding on what kind of risk is involved.

But Muckler, who has insisted through camp the club will only keep 20 players, told the Sun last night he might keep both Andrej Meszaros and Christoph Schubert to start the season. They were believed to be battling for one open spot on the blue line.

"That's a possibility. I'm not going to say it will be that way for a month, but we might start the season that way," said Muckler.

A scout at last night's game insisted several teams -- including Tampa Bay, Washington, the New York Rangers, Carolina, Boston, Atlanta and St. Louis -- are looking for blue-line help, and that Schubert would never clear waivers if the Senators tried to send him to their AHL farm team in Binghamton, N.Y.

"(Meszaros) has shown he can play in the NHL," said Murray. "You have to like him. He has battled hard. He blocked a shot (off Alexei Kovalev) in the second, couldn't get off the ice and blocked a couple more.

"He battles and he's competitive. But he doesn't have to clear waivers and if 12 teams are looking at (Schubert), you're going to have a decision to make."

GOALTENDING SOLID

There should be no concern about whether Hasek is ready for the season. He looked good during his 30:42 of work by stopping 14 shots from the Habs. Backup Ray Emery was also solid with 14 stops of his won.

"I feel like I am ready for the regular season and I am confident that I am ready to go," said Hasek. "It's going to be different during the regular season.

"I've only played two full games, so we will see how it goes."

Murray was pleased with the way camp finished and the club's performance during the pre-season.

"I wasn't really happy with the way we played (Saturday) and I wanted to see us come back strong," said Murray. "I thought we did a solid job. I'm happy with the way we worked.

"I thought we played much better defensively."


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