D.H. swinging a hot stick

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

BUFFALO -- He may be poised to set a single-season franchise record for most goals in a season, but Dany Heatley is still the second-highest scorer in the Senators' dressing room these days.

Before he was called up from the Binghamton Senators to help fill the injury void Monday afternoon, Denis Hamel was establishing himself as the first 50-goal scorer in the organization's history.

Hamel, a 28-year-old winger who spent parts of four seasons with the Sabres, picked up Nos. 50 and 51 in weekend games with the Baby Sens.

GOAL SHY OF RECORD

The other D.H. is one goal from breaking Marian Hossa's single-season Ottawa record of 45.

"It's great ... not every year do you get a chance to score 50 goals," said Hamel, who was brought along to Buffalo by the Senators yesterday in case he's needed tonight. "This year, it seems like almost every shot I take is going in. But it's still hard, because the team isn't doing as well as we expected to do down there."

Hamel saw 9:37 of ice time in Monday's win over Atlanta and had two shots on goal. One was at the end of a determined shorthanded rush, when his sizzling wrister was deflected aside by Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen.

That quick release is partly why he has a 29-goal lead over the next most successful sniper in Binghamton.

Meanwhile, if there are no plans for him to be in Ottawa next season, Hamel's scoring exploits in Bingo have certainly caught the attention of other NHL clubs.

"Hopefully, yes," he agreed. "But right now I'm just really happy to be here. I'm going to take things day by day and we'll see what happens."

HEATING UP: A surge of six goals in his last five games has Heatley with a chance at the magical 50 mark himself. He needs five more in the team's final eight games. "The season's gone well," Heatley said yesterday. "It's been fun to play with Spetz (Jason Spezza) and the guys all year. If (breaking Hossa's mark and hitting 50) happen, they happen. It'd be great." Standing between him and Jaromir Jagr (52 goals) in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy are Ilya Kovalchuk (48), Alexander Ovechkin (48) and Jonathan Cheechoo (46). "You want to contribute and help your team," said Heatley. "If you're up there in the league (scoring race) it's a good indication of what kind of year you're having. I'm not really thinking about how many goals I have ... I'm more concerned with getting ready for the playoffs and us doing well as a team."

ANOTHER CALL FOR ACTION: Now Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has something in common with many Senators fans -- a strong disgust and contempt for Leafs W Darcy Tucker. In a classic rant, Ruff unloaded his feelings about Tucker's "knee-on-knee" hit (that included an attempted punch to the head) to W Jochen Hecht in a post-game sermon Monday. Hecht, one of Buffalo's top players who was participating in his first game since missing nine with a sprained knee, is now expected to miss the next two weeks. Yesterday, the league told the Sabres that Tucker would not be suspended or fined. That wouldn't bode well for chances that Kovalchuk will be penalized by the NHL disciplinary committee for his two-handed slash on Chris Neil, especially in that the Senators winger only missed a few shifts. "He couldn't take the hit that we gave him, so he knocks our guy out of the lineup for probably weeks," Ruff said of Tucker, who went after Hecht moments after he was crushed by Sabres W Mike Grier. "That's a joke. I want him suspended. I want him fined. I'll come to the hearing. I haven't called the league once. I'll call them 10 times (over this). If you go knee-on-knee and take a shot at a guy's head at the same time, you don't deserve to be in the game. We're going to the playoffs, and they're going to take out one of our best players because you couldn't take a hit? That's a joke. I've seen enough of (Tucker), that it's a joke."

BIG ZEE: Injured D-man Zdeno Chara shook his head at a report Monday that suggested he'd be out 5-6 weeks with his bruised hand. "What can I say? I didn't say that," said Chara. "For sure, somebody shouldn't make those comments. For sure, our goal is to get back as soon as possible, as healthy as possible. I can't really control what TV people say or write ... I'm focused on our goal." And Chara, who is skating in full equipment and was on the ice with teammates yesterday, can't hit the goal until he can shoot a puck. "I'm not able to do that right now," he said.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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