Wilma blows Sens game away

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:50 PM ET

TAMPA -- Hurricane Wilma officially sent the Senators packing last night.

Instead of facing the Florida Panthers tonight at the BankAtlantic Center, the Senators are sitting comfortably in Raleigh, N.C., far away from the eye of the storm.

After three days of watching Wilma whip through the South Atlantic, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman decided yesterday at 2 p.m. to push the Panthers-Senators game back to Dec. 5.

That means the Senators , who chartered out of Tampa after last night's game against the Lightning, will practice today and tomorrow in the Raleigh area. Ottawa faces the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.

"This probably makes the most sense," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "Sure, we'd like to play the game (in Miami) because we are down here and the guys want to play, but we have to take every precaution with this situation.

"I'm sure that we could have gotten into Fort Lauderdale, played the game and gotten out just fine, but I'm not sure that would have been the right thing to do. People are leaving the area and I can completely understand why this decision was made."

STORM WARNING

As the Senators rested during the day yesterday at the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg, shop owners just a couple of blocks away were boarding up their stores.

Though forecasters at the National Hurricane Center can't predict where Wilma might turn after hitting Mexico yesterday, it's believed it may touch down in South Florida either late tomorrow or early Monday.

"We rescheduled this game because so many fans and Panthers employees have left the area and because we want to ensure safe travels into and out of Florida for the teams and the officials," said deputy commissioner Bill Daly in a statement.

This will be costly for the Senators because they'll have to make a special trip down here to play the single game before a western road trip.

But safety comes first in this situation.

"It was the right thing to do," said Senators president Roy Mlakar.

Unfortunately, the Senators are going to have to wait to get their first look at former coach Jacques Martin behind the Florida bench and it means winger Martin Havlat's five-game suspension will be extended. Now he won't be eligible to return until Nov. 2.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos