Kelly has friends in high places

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

BOSTON -- There are, in fact, two Chris Kellys who work at Scotiabank Place.

One is an off-ice official who is often situated in the press box, the other a rookie centre whose stock these days is almost as high.

And they are not Sr. and Jr., or in any other way related, no matter what Jason Spezza thinks.

"His dad picks the stars up there, that must be it," Spezza kidded yesterday, nodding toward his buddy a few stalls away in the Senators dressing room. "He had no goals, no assists and he's the first star? How else do you explain it?"

Of course, Spezza knows exactly why his former Binghamton winger drew the accolades in Tuesday's dramatic, 4-3 victory over the Lightning.

Chris Kelly, the player, had a terrific game. He led the team in shots, with five. He drove to the net hard on two occasions -- one particularly spectacular -- only to somehow be denied.

Most importantly, he was a key member of Ottawa power-play units that killed 7-of-8 penalties, including a double-minor to Daniel Alfredsson that carried over from the second period to a fresh sheet of ice in the third.

Mike Fisher and Peter Schaefer (and, to a lesser extent, Alfredsson and Dany Heatley) also serve as PK forward tandems for Ottawa. But partly because of their age, partly because of their speed, and partly because of their threat to score, Kelly and Antoine Vermette have some looking at them as a young Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby.

All that duo has done over the years is help the Red Wings to Stanley Cups and Canada to global supremacy.

"That," Kelly said when told of the comparison, "is obviously a great compliment."

Kelly remains a fourth-liner for the Senators, but that should not be considered his career role. Asked about the 25-year-old former Baby Sens captain yesterday, Ottawa coach Bryan Murray went on about "people with great character who work really hard and are willing to go to practice and do what they are told and improve every day.

"Chris Kelly has done all that and more," said Murray. "I feel he could play on our Top 3 lines very easily if he had to. He's an important player."

Added Spezza: "I knew he'd come in here and make an impact this year. He's been a key addition to this team."

And yet Tuesday was the first time he'd been named the first star in an NHL game.

"It was quite an honour, but I was kinda taken off guard by that," Kelly said. "Especially the way the game ended."

That, of course, saw Spezza and Alfredsson teaming up for a last-second game winner, the third and second point of the night for each, respectively.

Meanwhile, even with a team-leading plus-30 and career highs in goals (24), assists (36) and points (60) in Bingo last season, Kelly couldn't remember being named the first star in a whole lot of games.

"Pretty tough trick," he said, "with Spetz getting 120 points or whatever."

Maybe, but it's not always about goals and assists.

Chris Kelly proved that once again Tuesday -- and even non-relatives noticed.

MURRAY MUSINGS: One of the big differences between Murray and his predecessor, Jacques Martin, is the emotion shown by the two men. Murray's mood is a lot looser, as he is generally good for a couple of quips and laughs a day, promoting an easier atmosphere that should pay dividends in the playoffs. But, it seems, he is also quicker to confront officials after they do his players wrong. He had a stern discussion with Paul Devorski at the end of the second period Tuesday over the poor call made by his partner, Chris Lee, on Alfredsson. "I asked if I could go to their room (during the intermission) to have a coffee with them, but they didn't want that to happen," he said yesterday. Instead, Murray made his points loudly and clearly at the boards, something that fuelled the booing crowd and was noticed by his players. The Senators returned to kill the penalty and outscore the Bolts 2-0 in the third. "I've had a few discussions with the refs over the years ... you learn to be a little more polite as you get older," he said. "But you have to show the players you care, in every game. It's a game, and emotion is a part of it. I've got to do my job and part of it is looking after them."

MARTY MENDING: While Spezza (and D Chris Phillips) missed yesterday's practice to rest minor ailments, W Martin Havlat skated on a line with Alfredsson and Heatley in continued strides along the comeback trail from shoulder surgery. Havlat still needs the doc's green light to take part in contact drills before any definite return can be considered, but Murray can see that day fast approaching. "To me, he's not that far away," said the coach.


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