Smolinski to wing it

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Bryan Smolinski will be shuffled off to a different line tonight.

The Senators' eldest statesman will be the right winger alongside Mike Fisher and Peter Schaefer on the second line when Ottawa tackles the Sabres at HSBC Arena.

That will at least provide more work for Smolinski, who has been limited to just over 11 minutes of ice time in each of the last two games.

"He wasn't playing as well as he did early on," coach Bryan Murray said of Smolinski, who was bumped to the fourth line in Thursday's 7-2 win over Pittsburgh. "And there are a couple of guys we tried to give more ice time to on this road trip. But playing a top team like Buffalo, we need to get some goals."

Smolinski, who was slotted in as the team's second-line centre at the start of the season, has just 10 goals through 50 games this season. He's also chipped in with 21 assists.

Jason Spezza will remain between Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson; Chris Kelly will centre Vaclav Varada and Chris Neil, while Patrick Eaves and Brian McGrattan will line up on either side of Antoine Vermette, who remains on the fourth unit despite the fact he's been one of Ottawa's best players during this road trip.

"When you take a guy like Bryan Smolinski and don't play him as much, you're hoping that when he does get the ice time back he'll think, 'Now I've got a chance again,' " said Murray, revealing some not-so-secret motivational methods. "There's a reason you yell at the ref, too. You might know damn well the ref is right, but sometimes you want to wake your team up."

Smolinski noticed the nudge.

"You think a lot when you're sitting back ... and I've had a lot of time to watch lately," said Smolinski, who hasn't picked up a point in four games and has just seven in the last 14. "I know I can be better."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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