Vermette can wing it

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

As he reminded everyone again Saturday, Senators winger Antoine Vermette still has the tools to be an offensive star in the NHL.

He also has the resume (57 in 71 games his third year of junior hockey, 34 goals in 80 games his first season as a pro) and the confidence to to back it up.

But on this team, at this time, the opportunity for him to play on one of the top two lines just isn't there.

And that's a fact he'll accept rather than fight.

"I try not to worry about it, I try not to pay attention, but you've always got some people who hear or read things and they tell you," Vermette said of rumours that he could be used as bait to land an offensive centre like Doug Weight or Olli Jokinen down the road.

"To be honest, we're hockey players, but we're human and we have feelings as well. I don't like when I hear that. I love this city, I love my teammates and this organization. I don't want to be traded at all. I'm definitely very happy here."

Vermette is the Senator's 12th-leading scorer with nine goals and eight assists -- third on the Ottawa depth chart at left wing, behind Dany Heatley and Peter Schaefer.

Since the return of Jason Spezza four games ago, he has played on a unit with scoring potential, working with Bryan Smolinski and Patrick Eaves, but coach Bryan Murray's primary expectations from it are to provide "energy, consistent play and not giving anything up."

The 23-year-old Vermette figures to be capable, even though the numbers aren't currently falling in line for him. Entering tonight's game at The Bank against the Boston Bruins, he has just one goal and one assist in his last 13 outings.

The output doesn't jive with the flashes of brilliance he showed in Saturday's SuperSkills competition. First, Vermette claimed the title as the Senators' fastest skater for the second straight time, motoring around the rink quick enough (14.20) to beat Mike Fisher (14.21) if not match the burning mark (13.70) he registered in 2004.

"I think I cut the corners a little too close," he said. "You have to go wide, like a race car."

In the breakaway competition, Vermette deked out goalie Ray Emery after first making three spectacular moves.

This season, as one of only five Senators to play in all 48 games, Vermette is averaging only 12:16 of ice time. Just four forwards have had less.

"To be fair to Antoine, I really haven't put him in a position to be a point getter," said Murray. "He's been more of a fourth-line guy. He does have the ability to score, you can see that in practice, and maybe he should get more. But with Heatley and Schaefer ... he's kind of a utility guy."

Vermette says he's "not too worried about points," but there's no denying he'd like to have more.

"I'm sure (the coaching staff) has reasons," said Vermette. "They know hockey. I just want to be on a winning team. As a third- or fourth-liner, and as a penalty killer, it's hard to get points out there. I'm just happy to contribute to our success."


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