Sens hot, no matter how you slice it

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

They held off the pizza party for former Senators coach Jacques Martin when he returned to Ottawa for the first time. But the hot Sens' scoring is depleting the pie supply around the nation's capital.

A promotional deal with Pizza Pizza was to award every ticket-holder a free slice whenever the Sens scored five goals in a home victory. The club easily reached that in the first three games. Fearing a loss of dough in the literal sense, the company asked that new National Hockey League scorer-friendly rules be taken into account and that the new slice standard would be six goals.

Ottawa reached the new magic number in two of the past four games, though a slow start on Thursday held them to a 4-1 win over Martin's Florida Panthers.

In eight pizza-possible games overall this season, Pizza Pizza has had to carve up wheels five times. It's meant 96,910 slices worth $133,251 if only half the Corel Centre fans retain their ticket stubs. The cost to Pizza Pizza through 41 games could be a staggering $1.4 million at this rate.

"You can't put a budget or price tag on something that gives you this type of exposure," Pat Finelli, vice-president of marketing at Pizza Pizza told the Ottawa Citizen.

With no insurance for the promotion, the company is compensating franchisees for the pizza.

"You gotta take the good times with the bad times. That's the way a partnership works," Finelli said.

Perhaps the next campaign will see the Sens deliver a win in 30 minutes or the admission is free.

As for Martin's return, players such as captain Daniel Alfredsson pointed out all the good things he did in turning around the expansion franchise, before his conservative nature and four playoff losses to the Maple Leafs hastened his exit.

"You adjust to your team and I think the people in Ottawa saw it," Martin said. "I was a defensive coach when I first got here, but the last five years, we were one of the top scoring teams in the league."

PAT ON THE BACK, NO SHOVE

The NHL did not adopt no-touch icing this year, firing up the debate about injury risks when two players dash head-long for the puck with little room to brake properly.

Pat LaFontaine, whose career was shortened by concussions, thinks he might have a solution to give fans the thrill of the chase without the dangerous collisions. He would call icing if the defending player beat the forechecker back to a pre-determined mark in the defensive zone, perhaps the top of the faceoff circle or the faceoff dot. If the forechecker got there first, icing would be waved off and play continue.

"I got the idea watching field lacrosse," LaFontaine said of the rule that gives possession to the player closest to the ball.

LaFontaine would also move one of the four on-ice officials into the stands.

"Four officials and 12 players is 16 men and that's too many out there," LaFontaine said. " A guy in the stands could be in just as good a position to call offsides and other things. Look at the line judges in the NFL."

OLD DOG JOINS COYOTES

At age 40, Barrie recreational goaltender Mel Woolsey thought the closest he'd ever get to his NHL dream was paying $9,999 to attend Wayne Gretzky's fantasy camp in Phoenix last week.

Part of the package (the money goes to charity) was watching a Coyotes practice at Glendale Arena. But when Phoenix backup goalie David LeNeveu took a puck in the neck just 10 minutes in and had to be helped off the ice, coach Gretzky was in a fix, spotted Woolsey in the stands and asked him to suit up.

How did he do against the big guns? A grateful Gretzky later joked it was Woolsey's "first and last" NHL tryout.

SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS

Not even a week after he fractured his left ring finger and was slated to be out two to four weeks, Martin St. Louis came back to score a winning goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

On Sunday, he'd been struck at the top of the finger by a Darryl Sydor rocket in practice and rushed off the ice with blood spurting. The diagnosis was a fractured bone and nail bed, which meant the nail had to be ripped out and stitched back.

But restless on the sidelines, St. Louis and the doctors decided he could do no more damage to the finger as long as he could tolerate the pain, then went out Thursday and scored the 3-2 winner against the New York Islanders.

He wore a special glove to hold the plastic splint in a curve so he could grip his stick. The finger and nail bed were wrapped in a gauze and jell sleeve for extra cushioning.

"He has the biggest heart in the league," Lightning goaltender John Grahame said.

SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS II

As for the St. Louis Blues, their injuries to high-profile defencemen continue.

After previous years which saw blue-line standouts Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis shelved, Eric Brewer is lost four to eight weeks with a shoulder injury, the third starting blue-liner to miss significant time this season.

Barret Jackman and Christian Backman were out of the lineup earlier.

"I don't know if it's The Curse of the St. Louis Blues, or what," Jackman said.

"Thank God it's early in the season."


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