Putting it on the line

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

Decisions, decisions.

The biggest ones won't be made for another week, but Senators GM John Muckler and coach Bryan Murray got a start on the evaluation process during a one-hour scrimmage yesterday.

While today's 10 a.m. Black and White game at Scotiabank Place is expected to be more intense with a large crowd on hand for the Senators Fanfest, Murray liked what he saw early.

"The guys that are the veteran players more often than not will have the edge because of the experience," said Murray. "There are a couple of guys that I'm asking questions about. Whether they can play in a third or fourth-line role and whether they can give us an upgrade or not."

Naturally, it's difficult to make evaluations on the second day of camp, but Muckler and Murray are happy with what they've seen up to this point.

Murray plans to explore lots of options when the Senators open the preseason against the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday at the Halifax Metro Centre.

That trend will continue Wednesday against Toronto at Scotiabank Place, because Murray wants to give those pushing for spots a fair opportunity to make an impression.

Some players distinguished themselves yesterday. Rookie centre Alexei Kaigorodov scored a pretty goal for the Black team on Ottawa backup goalie Ray Emery.

But there are other players making a push. Centre Josh Hennessy, who played 25 games for Chicago last season and was acquired in the Martin Havlat deal, didn't look out of place. Defenceman Michal Barinka, who might be in tough to make the club because of the veteran depth on the blueline, is also tough to miss, but he's also 6-foot-3.

"We're going to play two groups and we're going to allow more people to get games," said Murray. "Saying that, there are some people we want to look at more than others."

Winger Antoine Vermette, who had 20 goals for the Senators last season when he was mostly used as a checker and a penalty killer, is also making a push for a bigger role. He has been placed on a line with centre Mike Fisher and winger Chris Neil.

GOOD OPPORTUNITY

"Playing with Mike Fisher is a pretty good role. I don't know whether he'll end up there or not," said Murray. "We'll get into games and I think (Vermette) can play an offensive role at times. There's no question the way he played last year for us, in the role he played, was very important for the hockey team.

"He's going to have to do something real strong offensively to take him out of the checker role and penalty killing role on this hockey team."

But if Kaigorodov struggles in the No. 2 centre spot, don't be surprised if Vermette gets a shot there.

"He can score ... given the opportunity. What I find at times is that when he plays with more offensive-minded players, he tries to do too much offensively," said Murray. "We want him to play to his strengths. We've got a whole preseason to find out for our sake, and his sake, too, where the best fit is."


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