Sen fired shot of confidence

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Senators winger Dany Heatley called his shot Wednesday night.

Heatley told assistant coach Greg Carvel he thought he could score on Maple Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour in the first-ever shootout in the NHL.

Heatley delivered and made Senators coach Bryan Murray look good in the process, as he used Daniel Alfredsson, Martin Havlat and Heatley in the shootout that decided Ottawa's season-opening 3-2 victory.

"Alfie had two goals and he looked like he was going. I'd be not very smart not to put him in there," said Murray. "Havlat had been real good on a couple of occasions. Heatley passed on to Carvie that he thought he could beat him. So why wouldn't you give a player that opportunity and he's a goalscorer anyway? That's all I did."

Heatley, by the way, missed practice yesterday with a sore groin, but is expected to be at his post tomorrow night when the Senators host the Buffalo Sabres in their home opener.

BRYAN'S SONG: Murray came to the club with a reputation for being tough and he wasn't pulling any punches yesterday.

He offered some frank assessments of several players after the Senators' less-than-impressive performance against the Leafs:

On winger Chris Neil: "He took a penalty on Eric Lindros with three minutes to go in the game. I made a point in our meeting (yesterday) morning of pointing Chris out on that. I told him (Wednesday) night, 'If you want to play on a good line and do that, you won't be playing on a good line.' It's as simple as that."

On forward Antoine Vermette: "He stayed out on the ice for two minutes one shift. He's not going to get on the ice again if that happens again."

Murray said he forgives mistakes as long as players learn from them.

VARADA IMPROVING: Senators winger Vaclav Varada, out with a knee injury, skated again yesterday and could rejoin the club for practice next week.

OPENING NIGHT SMASH: The NHL was delighted with opening night on Wednesday, saying 11-of-15 games were sellouts. Overall, rinks were filled to 98.1% of capacity and crowds averaged 18,363 per game for a record total of 275,447. Ninety-five goals were scored, an average of 6.33 per game -- good news for a league that wants to see more scoring. In 2003-04, the average game produced 5.19 goals.

GOALIES HURT: Atlanta placed goaltender Kari Lehtonen on injured reserve after he suffered a groin injury in Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Florida. Mike Dunham will take over the starting duties ... Rookie Cam Ward will replace the injured Martin Gerber when Carolina plays Pittsburgh tonight. Gerber is day-to-day with a pulled muscle near his left hip. He was hurt in Wednesday's 5-2 loss to Tampa.

NATIONS SIGN DEAL: Five countries -- Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland -- have signed a new two-year agreement that regulates player transfers from European leagues to the NHL. Czech representatives are expected to sign shortly, but the Russian federation has refused to sign the deal, which runs from 2005-07.


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