Senators put on the hits

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

The Senators were a big hit in their first game of 2006 at the Corel Centre.

An inspiring Daniel Alfredsson re-established himself as one of "The Delivery Boys" -- Ottawa players who score the sixth, Pizza-Pizza-piece-of-pie-winning goal for the hometown fans -- in what ended up as a 7-2 pounding of Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes.

Along with all the lamp lighting, the Senators provided something to folks who like a little bang for their buck. Led by fourth-liners Christoph Schubert and Brian McGrattan, plus defenceman Anton "A-Train" Volchenkov and Zdeno "Pull Up A" Chara, Ottawa racked up 27 hits in what might have been its most physical performance of the season.

While "A-Train" had a team leading five, Schoobie-Doobie-Do-bert impressively recorded four in the just 2:22 of ice time he had before leaving with a hamstring problem.

Guess you could say that he and his friends brought the pop to go along with the pizza supplied by Alfie and Co.

Starts and Stops:

Took Alfredsson 55 seconds to steal the puck from Zbynek Michalek at the Coyotes' blue line, draw a penalty and get two quick, quality scoring chances on Brian Boucher, and just 91 seconds to draw his first point since suffering a broken rib Dec. 30. Some Senators didn't do nearly that much in the five games the captain missed ... Alfredsson also stood in front of the net -- while Chara loaded up at the point -- early in the first. You know what trouble that caused him the last time. "I had to get the demons out," Alfredsson joked afterwards. "What are the odds it (taking a rib breaker) would happen again? If I start playing on the outside, I'll never go in front again. I wasn't too worried." ... Mike Fisher(man) took a shot from Coyotes defenceman "Rafael" Paul Mara (good one, Wag) after taking a shot at the Phoenix net right after a whistle. A period later, Fisher(man) had the best shot of the night, over Boucher's right shoulder for his 14th goal of the season.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...:

Interesting timing, how the Senators put a live shot of Gretzky pacing behind the Coyotes bench on the videoboard with five minutes to go in the third and his team trailing by a half-dozen goals. Gee, wonder why the Great One didn't wave to the fans who were giving him a nice round of applause at the same time? ... Dany Heatley had one first-period goal and could have had four, including a breakaway that proved to be Boucher's finest moment. His worst? The longest, slowest goal Patrick Eaves has scored in the NHL (if not ever), a floater that suggests Boucher was never much of an infielder growing up as the use-two-hands and get-your-body-in-front-of-it approach is not his.

Punch Lines:

Worst call of the night came from the Corel Centre crowd, when they cheered their vote for The Romantics' What I Like About You to be played rather than The Knack's My Sharona. Broo-tal .... Sign of the times -- the board in the Senators dressing room reminded players of an NHLPA meeting today. Lunch will be served, it read, to which somebody added, "ie. egg sandwiches." Commented one media member: "The steak's in escrow." .... It took a long time to get going, but Chris Neil and Sean O'Donnell battled to a fairly even draw in the second that had to be a lot of fun for the fans sitting along the glass just feet from where they scrapped ... Unhappy after the battle was Gretzky, who had his first words with an official 6:24 into the game over the refusal to make a change, then had plenty more to say to the men in stripes when O'Donnell was given 17 minutes (instigator and misconduct along with his fighting major) ... Volchenkov engaged in what was believed to be his first NHL fight, coming up on the short end of a 0-to-4 punch count with Shane Doan.

Between Periods:

Nobody can fully appreciate the pain Jason Spezza has had to endure with his pulled chest muscle, but it must be significant. Otherwise, the star centre would feel extra uncomfortable sitting beside Alfredsson and his workable broken rib in the dressing room. "I didn't think it would be this long," a must-be-very frustrated Spezza said of his time on the shelf. He's not alone ... Doan said he went after Volchenkov as payback for the defenceman taking a run at one of his teammates. Must have been referring to Ladislav Nagy. "I'd like to see what they'd do if we went after Alfredsson or Heatley low through the middle up 6-1," said Doan. "I know what they'd do. The same thing."

WAY UP THERE-A: You'd have to know the black eye worn by Zdeno "Pull Up A" Chara wasn't caused by stick or fist -- who can reach that high with either? No, the big Zee is sporting a shiner and five stitches above his right lid as a result of a puck shot his way in Boston. But don't expect to see him wear a visor in the NHL, even though it doesn't bother him at all when he must don one for international competitions. "There are good and bad points to it," said Chara, noting that players have been hurt because of visors (ie. broken nose). Another reason? "Sometimes you have to scrap."

TRADING PLACES: The chemistry in the Senators dressing room was jeopardized with the 67's trading of 28-goal scorer Bryan Bickell to Windsor for 28-point man Brett Liscomb. How's that, you say? To earn school credits, Bickell was a Senators stick and towel boy at practices. Asked what he thought about the trade yesterday, Bryan Murray replied: "All I know is that Brian (Kilrea) knows what he's doing." Bickell, a tremendous talent and second-round Blackhawks draft pick, is also known as a very inconsistent player. As one wise hockey personnel man put it: "He has a torn motivator cuff."


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