Forget the injuries ... keep faith in Sens

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:23 AM ET

Although it doesn't seem possible, there has been another blow to the Senators' lineup.

The seventh man is down not physically, but emotionally. His lack of faith has placed him on the IR. Date of return: TBA.

What began as a small injury cluster in Ottawa has morphed into something resembling the infamous wounded Confederate soldiers scene from Gone With The Wind. After each game, one halfway expects the network cameras to pan up and across the Senators' dressing room, displaying a good portion of the roster, splayed and contorted in pain on makeshift stretchers.

Fans have seen every facet of the team affected by these injury losses. From goaltending to grit, from scoring to defense -- it's a wonder no one has attempted to swaddle Daniel Alfredsson in bubble wrap on his off days.

Forget that the Senators have had a franchise record 12 wins in March -- some message boards dedicated to the team are feverishly predicting an apocalypse. Too many integral cogs forced to the sidelines during such a crucial period. Meanwhile, the questions perpetually linger regarding their degrees of injury, and projected length of recovery.

Keep in mind these are the same Senators that clinched a playoff spot last week, and continue to dominate the Eastern conference.

Why would the team rush back injured players for the last few games of the regular season? Could anyone envision Brian Murray attempting to appease the masses or making a run at the Presidents Trophy right now?

Life's a lot different when you're sitting on top of the heap. You don't need to make extreme sacrifices when you've secured a playoff berth.

That mode of thinking may not quell the cynical minds of Ottawa, but here's a notion that may ease their anxiety: The numerous injuries that the Senators have faced, distressing as they may seem, have made the team stronger as a whole.

Think about a rookie like Andrej Meszaros being forced into 30 a game as a patchwork top defenceman, and shutting down Jaromir Jagr -- the probable MVP of the league. Think about Antoine Vermette and his emergence as one of the top penalty killers in the NHL.

Think about players like Bryan Smolinski, Chris Kelly and Brian Pothier -- contributors who are sometimes overshadowed. All three have put multiple points on the board in their last five games.

The Senators have been forced to step up and become accountable for the immeasurable depth that so many analysts labeled them with, earlier in the year. They needed to prove they weren't just an offensive one-line wonder. They had to demonstrate there was more to their defence beyond Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara.

And they have -- multiple times over. It just took some bad luck for it to occur.

Woe is not you, Senators fans. If you keep this up, you'll tremble so hard you'll fall off the bandwagon. Keep the faith that Ottawa will be fully recovered for the playoffs, and revel in the fact that your black hole-pool of talent can maintain this type of success under extreme circumstances.

Ottawa has a problem with shootouts. The team's issues are well documented. The fans' however, are not. From my press box vantage point last Tuesday, I was dismayed to see people sitting through the entire process. Worse still were the fans that chose to stand and applaud the announcement of say, Dany Heatley, only to adopt a bizarre squatting position as Dany skated down the ice. Let me make this easy for you: Stand. Remain standing. And most importantly, remain vocal. Shootouts are one of the most exciting plays in hockey. Your behaviour should demonstrate that.

OH, BABY!: Glen Davis, a centre for LSU's men's basketball team, goes by the moniker "Big Baby." Shawn Kemp should have a talk with this kid before he enters the NBA, and explain how too many nights on the town could change Davis from "Big Baby" to "Many Babies."

LITTLE UNIT: A photo of Randy Johnson's love child appeared on the cover of the New York Post this week. Sixteen-year-old Heather Roszell is a pony-tailed, alabaster teenager who bares a striking resemblance to her father. Could you imagine this girl hooking up with J.J. Redick down the road? Think about it: Translucent children with Duke/Yankee pedigrees. It's like something out of a horror movie.

ONRAIT OR WRONG: A sign spotted at the Devils-Senators game last Tuesday: "(TSN's Jay) Onrait is the man." For the record, the game was shown on Sportsnet.

erinnicks@yahoo.ca


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