Who will shoulder the load for Havlat?

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- With a dislocated right shoulder keeping Martin Havlat out for an extended period, Senators GM John Muckler will need to make a decision on what's best for his hockey club.

Can the recently recalled Brandon Bochenski, who scored a hat trick and added an assist against Florida on Monday, handle the job on a full-time basis while Havlat heals?

Or is there someone on the market who could help the club later on this season if the decision to use Bochenski doesn't work out?

One option for the Senators could see them move centre Mike Fisher to the wing and then try to strengthen the middle position.

"We're going to go with Brandon Bochenski," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "He's played well and he's shown a lot of confidence. At the start of the year, it was tough for him, but he's been strong."

If, however, Bochenski doesn't work out, the market for wingers is limited unless the Senators are willing to spend money, which may be tough with the club's salary hovering around $35.4 million (all figures US):

- Indications have the Canucks listening to offers for winger Todd Bertuzzi, who has two years at $5.2 million per season left on his deal. Although Bertuzzi hasn't been playing as well as he has in the past, there's no question he's among the elite power forwards when he's at his best. Following the Steve Moore incident and subsequent suspension, a change of scenery could be just what he needs.

- Former Leafs winger Owen Nolan is a possibility. He is waiting to get his contract dispute with Toronto settled, but is getting ready to make a comeback. Nolan has been working out in Cali-fornia, is in good shape and would be a force in the playoffs -- especially if the Senators face the Leafs. Ottawa, however, will have plenty of competition once Nolan is cleared to play. The Sharks and Flames are both ready to make a pitch.

- The Flames would like to move centre Steven Reinprecht, but that kind of deal would only happen if the Senators decided to move Fisher to the wing.

- Moving Fisher out of the middle spot would also allow the Senators to take a serious look at St. Louis centre Doug Weight. He would be a legitimate scoring force in the playoffs and might take some of the pressure off the big line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.

As the Senators have continued to roll without Havlat, Muckler should be in no hurry to make any drastic changes. This trip through Vancouver, Calgary and Colorado will go a long way in helping the Senators determine where they stand.

"You could say these games are a good measuring stick because we're going to be facing some pretty good teams," said Murray.

The players realize the next few weeks will be a big test and it will also go a long way in determining what's next for Muckler -- especially if the Senators start to slip.

"I don't think you replace a player like Martin Havlat," said Senators centre Bryan Smolinski.

"You lose that kind of guy and you just hope that you're able to get him back as quickly as possible.

"The good thing is we've got people here like (Bochenski) who are able to step in and get the job done for us."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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