Virus leaves Sen step behind

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

MONTREAL -- It turned out to be the vacation from hell for Christoph Schubert.

The Senators defenceman/forward went with his girlfriend on a Caribbean getaway in August and wound up with a nasty souvenir.

They both came down with a virus that left them feeling tired and listless.

While his girlfriend bounced back from it, it kept Schubert out of camp until this week. He finally played his first game of the pre-season last night which is good news for the Senators.

With defenceman Joe Corvo expected to miss the beginning of the season with a fractured foot, Schubert will be needed to fill out the defence corps.

A year ago, Schubert was one of the surprises of training camp, forcing the Senators to keep him on the NHL roster or risk losing him on waivers.

As the season progressed, his ability to play on the blue line and up front made him a valuable utility man. He's a good skater and showed the ability to get in and hand out a good hit on the forecheck.

But he's been all but invisible in this camp as the virus kept him off the ice until this week.

"Nobody could really figure out what kind of virus it was. The doctors didn't really have a 100% explanation for it," Schubert said yesterday before the Senators departed for Montreal for last night's pre-season finale.

"I'm happy to be back and be out on the ice with the guys and playing my first game. This is the last thing anybody wanted. The last couple of weeks I was pretty frustrated. The coach was not too happy, but it was something I couldn't control. But the guys kept my mood up and I was counting the days (until he got the okay to practise again).

"Last year was a pretty good year. It was a good start to my NHL career and I wanted to build on it. I'm not saying I have to start over, but now with Corvo out, the games I get are going to be like my pre-season. Maybe I'm going to be a little rusty, but I think that's normal."

Schubert did fine last night, scoring a goal and making a nice play to take the puck away from Montreal captain Saku Koivu behind the Ottawa net in the second period.

HEAR AND THERE: Senators coach Bryan Murray played Russian rookie Alexei Kaigorodov with Chris Kelly last night in the hopes Kelly could help the kid better understand the Senators' forechecking. The Russian system typically uses a very passive forecheck on the big ice and Kaigorodov tends to sit back high. That's fine if he's the third man, but when he has the chance to be the first guy in, he's got to go hard ... Murray said he thinks the Habs will be a good team this year. "I think it's going to come down to their goaltending, like it does for all of us," he said. "Looking around our division, I think it's just what the league wanted, balanced and competitive." ... The Canadiens traded C Mike Ribeiro to the Stars for D Janne Niinimaa just before last night's game, a move that will probably be welcomed by most Habs fans. Ribeiro, with is gangsta wardrobe and histrionics on the ice, didn't project the image a lot of fans of Les Glorieux felt honoured the team's tradition ... Not that Niinimaa is the perfect citizen. He walked out on Finland at the 2004 World Cup after a dispute with the coach and was kicked off the ice while with the Islanders when then-coach Steve Stirling didn't feel he was giving it his all ... The feeling in Habs camp is they have plenty of good, young centres in the organization and five on the NHL roster even after Ribeiro 's departure: (Koivu, Chris Higgins, Steve Begin, Radek Bonk and Tomas Plekanec) and with D Francis Bouillon out through November after having knee surgery, there was a need for some defensive depth. With rookie Guillaume Latendresse making the club as a winger, it also gives the Habs the option to move one of the centres playing wing right now into the middle.

REVELATIONS: The Canadiens signed Latendresse to a unique contract. He got a first-rounder's money ($850,000 a year for three years) despite being a second round choice (45th overall). The kicker is he has absolutely no bonus clauses, which can often at least double a contract's value ... Latrendresse, if you haven't noticed, is a big favourite of the fans here. They started buzzing when both he and Senators D Wade Redden crossed the Ottawa blue line, chasing down a puck in the corner. Latendresse didn't disappoint, putting Redden on his butt after bumping him into the wall.


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