Add Phillips' name to growing sick-bay list

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

What do a nice patio in the Market and the Senators' training room have in common on a nice, sunny spring day?

"There are no tables left," said Senators centre Mike Fisher yesterday after emerging from the training room for treatment on his sore ankle.

It's a long line for the services of Senators athletic therapist Gerry Townend, who's busier than any maitre d' in town these days.

Senators defenceman Chris Phillips took a number yesterday and will have it for the next 3-4 weeks as he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against the Devils on Tuesday night.

It's another huge hit for a Senators team already reeling without Fisher, goaltender Dominik Hasek, stopper defenceman Zdeno Chara and winger Martin Havlat.

With Chara, nursing a sore hand, still a no-go for tonight's game against league-leading scorer Jaromir Jagr and the Rangers, the Senators are now without their top defensive tandem, the pair that goes against the other team's star.

"When it rains it pours," said Phillips, who was injured late in the first period when his skate got caught in a rut and he was bumped by New Jersey's Zach Parise.

He'll now be lucky to be ready to return in time for the start of the playoffs, three weeks from now.

"It's really frustrating. This is the last thing you want to have happen. It's not an ideal situation, nursing (an injury) going into the playoffs. It's the most physical time of the year, but I'm going to work hard to get back to 100%."

VOLCHENKOV BACK

Senators coach Bryan Murray did get some good news yesterday as defenceman Anton Volchenkov skated with his teammates yesterday in their optional skate and appears ready to return from his sore neck. He's missed the last three games. He'll take Phillips' spot on the roster.

"I'm disappointed it happened the way it happened. It looked like an innocent play. It's a big hole in our lineup," Murray said of the loss of Phillips. "I said from Day 1 of training camp the strength of our team was the defensive corps, both in terms of numbers and ability, but to lose two of them ... it's a big hole for our group. The onus is going to be on other people, it's an opportunity for other people."

Senators rookie blueliner Andrej Meszaros has had a remarkable season, but he's not ready to play 30 minutes a game (30:42 actually) like he did against the Devils.

But that's the situation Meszaros and veteran Wade Redden will probably find themselves in again tonight and it'll be a tough half-hour, too, if it's against Jagr, the favourite for the Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and Maurice Richard Trophy.

"I don't mind the extra work," said Redden, who clocked 30:55 vs. the Devs, despite a sore hip. "The hip is all right. During the games it feels fine.

"The guys are going to have to step up and we're going to have to keep winning games."

The Senators held a three-point lead for first in the Eastern Conference on the Hurricanes going into Carolina's meeting with the Capitals last night.

Murray spoke to Chara, who skated on his own before practice yesterday, and was told Chara's hand is still too sore to hold his stick effectively, though there has been improvement.

He could be back on the weekend -- or maybe not.

The news is similar in Fisher's case. He has missed the last six games with that ankle, which he said is better, but probably not well enough to play tonight.

"I skated (yesterday) and it definitely felt better," said Fisher. "I'll take the morning skate (today) but I don't expect to be in unless it feels a lot better."

Havlat was off yesterday to meet with Dr. Anthony Miniaci to get the green light to take contact on his surgically repaired shoulder. Havlat has missed the last 49 games after having surgery for a dislocated shoulder in early December.

It's expected Havlat will need 7-10 days of practice before he returns, though he's been practising with his teammates for the last three weeks.


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