The A-Train is back on track.
After a slow start to the season, Anton Volchenkov is beginning to give the Senators the solid defensive play they expect from the former first-round pick in his fourth NHL season.
In Saturday's 8-1 victory over New Jersey, the stay-at-home blueliner had what might be the equivalent of a three-goal, three-assist night from a winger.
The Devils had sufficient problems getting the puck past his caboose, as Volchenkov was credited with an astounding nine blocked shots. As near as can be remembered, it's the highest such total in Senators history.
PLUS-5 IN GAME
Volchenkov, who had two assists, was also a plus-5 on the night along with blue line partner Tom Preissing.
"It's obviously a key part of the game now," Bryan Murray said of shot blocking. "Not only does getting in the shooting lanes help the goalie, but often the puck bounces into position where you're able to quickly go on the attack.
"(Volchenkov) was real good (Saturday), real strong defensively. Last year, he probably didn't have the importance he has now, with Zee (Zdeno Chara) here, but now we use him in matchups against better players. He's made some real strides."
Rather than spending some quality time with his favourite ice packs, Volchenkov was one of eight Senators to take part in an optional skate yesterday.
'I FEEL GOOD TODAY'
"I feel good today ... maybe a couple of bruises, but I'm all right. It's hockey," said Volchenkov, who played 19:49 of Saturday's game. "Lots of (ice) time, but I like it. It was a good game for the team, a big win."
While Senators met with consultants preaching against the use of alcohol and drugs yesterday, they return to practice this morning, then leave for Toronto and Tuesday's game against the Maple Leafs.
After playing just seven games in the first 17 days of the schedule, their routine now changes into one preferred by players -- four more games before the end of the month, then almost one every second night in November.
THIS AND THAT: Murray said Ray Emery's start in goal Saturday was in keeping with a rotation he had previously set. "We want both goalies to get some games in early, and then we have to make a determination," he said. Sure sounds like the No. 1 job is totally up for grabs ... Peter Schaefer (hip flexor) is questionable for the Leafs game ... Denis Hamel wasn't discouraged over being a healthy scratch Saturday. "Of course it's tough," he said. "But the team won, and that's what we needed. Every day you have to be better, in this league. I'm ready to do it, to work hard in practice and show them I want to play again. I'm sure I'll get another chance to play."