Arnason still a lost Senator

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

The next stop for Tyler Arnason could be the press box.

Senators coach Bryan Murray didn't mince words after last night's 5-4 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers when he was asked about the lack of playing time the club's centre had in the third period.

"He didn't play at all," said Murray.

Why? "I just benched him," said Murray.

Arnason hasn't scored in 19 games since being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at the March 9 trade deadline. He gave way to defenceman Christoph Schubert last night.

"I wanted somebody to bring some energy. That was the only message," said Murray. "I thought Schubert would do that and he did that right away. He went in there, made a hit and there was (a scuffle) behind the net ... (he) was able to go in there and look after what we needed."

If Arnason doesn't turn it up a notch in the final two games of the regular season, he might start the playoffs as a spectator. He's certainly had enough chances to make something happen.

GOING TO THE NET: If Dany Heatley is going to join the prestigious 50-goal club, he'll have to do it on the road. With Heatley sitting two goals shy of the mark, he was blanked in the Senators' final home game last night. "Sure you'd like to do it here because the fans have been great," said Heatley. "But 50 goals is 50 goals. It doesn't matter where it happens. Right now, we just have to focus on getting ready for the playoffs."

THE MORNING SKATE: The Senators announced Monday that RW Martin Havlat has been cleared to play tomorrow against the Maple Leafs, but may have been a little premature in doing so. Murray said Havlat needs to have one more strength test on his shoulder today when the Senators arrive in Toronto before he's given the go-ahead. "I feel pretty good and I'm pretty sure they're going to give me the clearance. The doctor just wants to have another look at it," said Havlat ... Panthers G Roberto Luongo has been in South Florida for five seasons now and still has no playoff experience. But after turning down a five-year, $30-million US contract earlier this season, Luongo now says he wants to stay after seeing teammate Olli Jokinen kept at the trade deadline. "My plan was to stay here from the beginning. I never wanted to leave," said Luongo. "Signing Olli long-term is something that is going to aid the process. It shows me the team is willing to make a commitment to guys and having a winning team." You read it here first: If Luongo is forced to go to arbitration, he'll take a one-year deal and sign as an unrestricted free agent with the Montreal Canadiens before the 2007-08 season.

AROUND THE BOARDS: G Ray Emery was supposed to make the start against the Panthers, but that idea was scratched about 45 minutes before the game. With his sore hip not 100%, Murray decided to start No. 3 G Mike Morrison. There's a good chance Ottawa could need Emery in the playoffs ... A Florida player the Senators looked at acquiring at the March 9 trade deadline -- along with Jokinen -- was veteran LW Gary Roberts. The issue with Roberts, an Ottawa killer when he played for the Leafs (you might recall), is the $2.25 million remaining on his contract next season ... A scout's book on Morrison: "It's hard to tell how good he is. A lot of times he has success because he guesses the right way." That wasn't always the case against the Panthers.

STOPS 'N' STARTS: As the scoreboard flashed to coach Jacques Martin behind the Florida bench last night, somewhere you could hear regular Team 1200 caller "Irish Tom" screaming: "Stop looking at the clock!" ... Senators D Chris Phillips said his goal is to be ready for the playoffs, but he's not ready to set a date yet. "There's a lot of things I haven't done and I haven't been able to take any contact," said Phillips ... Great individual effort: The goal by C Mike Fisher at 10:45 of the second, when he broke through three Florida players and beat Luongo with a backhander ... Does anybody else agree Jokinen would have looked good in a Senators' uniform? Thought so ... Zdeno Chara must have had a memory lapse in the third period. He was just saying yesterday his hand isn't quite 100%, but there he was trying to get at Florida C Chris Gratton during a skirmish behind the net ... Jozef Stumpel made a unique move. The Panthers centre cross-checked Senators W Peter Schaefer in the final few minutes while standing on the Florida bench. But the attack didn't stop there. Before he knew it, Schaefer was being punched in the head by Roberts and Jokinen. "I get speared in the back and there's no penalty. Next thing I know, they are all jumping me. I wasn't going to jump into the bench. We were down by a goal with two minutes left," said Schaefer.

THEY SAID IT: "It was nice to get the (point), but maybe we shouldn't wait until the 59th minute to do it." -- Senators C Bryan Smolinski, on the team sending it to OT.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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