Sens an old story with young twist

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

The Senators have another 100-point season. A good, old story, right?

It's the third straight year they have delivered a 100-point season and the fifth time in the last seven years.

But this year it's an old story with a young twist.

The Senators are achieving their typical excellence this season despite having the second-youngest lineup in the NHL behind only San Jose.

You could make a solid argument no elite team in the league has had as much of a contribution from its rookies as the Senators.

Almost a third of the Senators' roster on any given night is rookies this season: Forwards Chris Kelly, Patrick Eaves and Brian McGrattan, forward-defenceman Christoph Schubert, defenceman Andrej Meszaros and goaltender Ray Emery.

They all played in Tuesday night's win over the Penguins.

Among Stanley Cup contenders, the Flyers and Rangers count about four key rookies apiece this season. The Flyers have forwards Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and R.J. Umberger and goaltender Antero Niittymaki. The Rangers have forwards Petr Prucha and Dominic Moore, defenceman Fedor Tyutin and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who's a Vezina and Hart Trophy candidate

REDDEN A WILY VET

Senators defenceman Wade Redden, 28, is now a wily veteran in the dressing room.

"It used to be me," he joked yesterday when asked about the young faces in the dressing room.

"Look at (Meszaros), (Schubert)... all these guys can play. McGrattan has played a role. Kelly has killed penalties and is one of the best out there. Eaves has (14) goals. For rookies, they don't play like it. They've got the confidence and the poise to contribute."

"They bring a great energy and keep everyone young and fresh," said Senators veteran Bryan Smolinski. "It can get monotonous if you have the same regime. It brings an intangible that might have been missing."

Senators coach Bryan Murray has always liked to have a couple of kids in his lineup. Their improvement over the course of a season guarantees the team should get better, too.

"The good thing about having young players is they are willing to work and learn," said Murray. "As they get better, there's no question your team gets better. You go down the list of guys here and when you have that kind of group, if you're good at the beginning you should be even better as you go on."

Murray said the Senators have a good mix with veteran players like Zdeno Chara, Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips and Redden giving the club an unselfish environment.

"The veterans that are here are good guys, hard-working guys and willing to share with the young people and on some teams that's not the case.

"Where are you going to find better guys than that? Then these kids come in and bring energy and excitement about being in the league so it is a nice combination. Nobody's mad about ice time or anything like that, it appears. They're just real satisfied at this point."

NOTES: The Senators haven't clinched a playoff spot just yet. The Thrashers' shootout win over the Bruins on Tuesday night kept the Senators from clinching. A loss by the Canadiens in regulation tonight against the Maple Leafs will clinch a post-season spot for the Senators ... Chara said he hopes the league will look into the two spears he received from Pittsburgh tough guy Eric Cairns on Tuesday.


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