Kaigorodov on bubble

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

They walked out Gate 3 of Scotiabank Place yesterday, sticks in one hand, an equipment bag over their shoulders and, for most of them, a five-hour drive to Binghamton up next.

No, the first round of cuts for the Senators were hardly the deepest, but they're definitely going to be the most for GM John Muckler and coach Bryan Murray as they inch closer to the final roster this weekend.

TRIO SENT BACK TO JUNIOR

Eighteen players -- including goalies Kelly Guard and Jeff Glass, along with juniors Nick Foligno (Sudbury), Cody Bass (Mississauga) and Tomas Kudelka (Lethbridge) -- were sent packing by Ottawa, leaving 28 players in camp.

"It's always disappointing for the players," Murray said following practice at the Bell Sensplex. "But coming into camp we had a pretty good idea who had a chance and who didn't have (a chance)."

Now, the boys on the bubble have three pre-season games to show what they can do if they're going to be here when the puck is dropped for real next Wednesday against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

With a $44-million (all terms US) salary cap in place and the club's payroll over $42 million, the Senators will likely keep only 21 players because they can't afford to have players sitting around earning an NHL salary.

While most positions are set, the Senators have to select their 12th and 13th forwards. They also have to decide if injuries to defencemen Joe Corvo (broken foot), Wade Redden (groin) and Anton Volchenkov (broken finger tip) are going to mean they have to keep extra blueliners around.

"We might have to keep one more player at the end of camp because of the injury situation right now, but we'll see," said Murray. "We'll eliminate as we get healthy bodies back. I would guess we're looking at that 12th or 13th forward spot as being kind of critical for the individual player involved."

Forwards Alexei Kaigorodov, Denis Hamel, Serge Payer and Josh Hennessy are competing for one spot up front. Going into camp, Kaigorodov would have had been a lock in Ottawa, but Hamel has scored five goals and deserves a chance to start the season here. That means Kaigorodov could start the season in Binghamton.

"I knew coming in this was going to be a tough training camp," said Hamel. "We've still got a lot of guys here. It's good that I'm still here and I've just got to keep working hard in every game that I play before the season starts.

"It's always a tough time. I know what I have to do. I came here with one thing in my mind: To make the team. Right now, I just have to make sure I work hard. Sometimes it's a little bit of luck putting the puck in the net, but I've got to make sure I do the little things right as well."

Murray said he expects final cuts to be made following Saturday's final exhibition game against the Montreal Canadiens, but yesterday's moves were necessary because work has to start to get ready for the opener.

"Number-wise we had to get down (to a more workable number)," said Murray. "We played too many games with the number of players that we had, but we said going into this with the number of games that we had that we were going to do that this year."

NO PARTY FOR GERBER: The defending Stanley Cup-champion Carolina Hurricanes are having a party in Raleigh next Monday to hand out their rings, but Senators G Martin Gerber won't be able to join his former teammates. While the Senators were willing to let him attend, Gerber checked into flights and wouldn't be able to make it back in time for practice Tuesday. "It's a whole day flight," said Gerber. He can't afford to miss the club's final workout before the regular-season opener against the Leafs. According to Gerber, he'll pick up the ring another time: "That's okay, 'cause they can't take it away from me."


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