Only victories will quell Sens chatter

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

BUFFALO -- A cloud of tension and rumours continue to hover around the Senators.

The only thing that is going to make it dissipate is a winning streak.

With the club approaching the quarter-pole of the season, Senators president Roy Mlakar was joined here by a lawyer who does work for club owner Eugene Melnyk's company and the Senators, Sheldon Plener.

"It was set up a month ago," said Mlakar, amid speculation the meeting was specifically about the club's struggles and Melnyk wanting Plener to do some in-person legwork on the Senators' current plight.

Plener flew on to New York with the team after last night's game for meetings in The Big Apple and will visit Ottawa on the weekend where his son attends university.

That said, there continues to be chatter out there something will happen if the Senators don't show considerable progress through the weekend.

The first step is usually a trade.

Senators GM John Muckler gave coach Bryan Murray a vote of confidence in an interview aired on a local radio station yesterday morning.

"I'm confident in Bryan. Bryan's been a good coach. History tells you that and, again, I don't think our work ethic is where it should be. We've got to do this thing from within. The skill level is there as proven in the past season that we can play with any hockey club, but right now they're not doing it," said Muckler.

"You hate to think that we can't get out of it. I guess we're still in the trying stage."

Muckler put the heat on his players, specifically Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.

"The heart and core of our hockey club right now is Spezza and Heatley. They have to come on a little stronger than they have before. We've got some other people not playing as well this year and it's hard to understand why not. (Peter) Schaefer's not really at the top of his game, (Mike) Fisher's not playing that well ... we've got too many people not performing in the manner they performed last year."

HEAR AND THERE: The Senators twice drew high-sticking penalties in the first period against Buffalo's Derek Roy. That's not hard to do on the little forward ... Heatley had an interesting shift near the end of the first. He broke his stick on one scoring attempt, went to the bench for a new twig, intercepted a pass at the Buffalo blue line with his new lumber and got another chance ... Senators D Wade Redden, out with a groin injury, is on the trip and skated yesterday.

THE BUZZ: Sabres D Teppo Numminen played his 1,253rd game last night, the most games played in the NHL by a European player. Former Oiler great Jari Kurri had the record of 1,251. Numminen started out in the 1988-89 season when there were just 16 other teams in the NHL ... Former 67's D Brian Campbell is one of six Sabres on the NHL's all-star ballot. His impression? "I think of (being on the ballot) and I think of being a healthy scratch for 49 games two years ago," he said. "I don't think of myself as being in that class." ... The Senators have five players on the ballot: Spezza, Heatley, Chris Phillips, Redden and Daniel Alfredsson.

REVELATIONS: While doing some work in my hotel room yesterday afternoon, it sounded funny to hear "former Florida Marlins manager Joe Girardi was named the National League's manager of the year today." How often does that happen? A guy is fired and then named manager of the year? ... The Senators' penalty killing had been slipping lately, but the boys wound up killing off a 5-on-3 in the first for almost a minute and had the best scoring chance: A breakaway by Antoine Vermette right after he came out of the box.

SPECULATIONS: Sabres C Daniel Briere, who scored last night's first goal, is playing on a line with Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville, three players who kicked around the league before finding their niche. Both Briere and Pominville, in fact, had gone unclaimed on waivers at some point in their careers. "A few years ago all us guys were trying to find a place to play. Now it's going well and that sure doesn't get old," Briere said yesterday ... If there was any question about the strength in Ray Emery's left arm, the Senators goaltender answered it in the first period, leaning on it hard to take a goal away from Buffalo's Paul Gaustad ... There were scouts from Washington, Pittsburgh, the Rangers, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago, Florida, Colorado, Anaheim, Carolina and two from the Oilers at last night's game, so if the Senators wind up making a trade with any of those teams, I'm going to claim I had it first.


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