McAmmond finds balance

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

You knew he was a fast skater. A versatile forward. A veteran of seven NHL teams.

You may have even known he was a husband and father of four.

But did you know he is also an interesting/peculiar side show in a generally busy/normal Senators dressing room?

After yesterday morning's skate, Dean McAmmond carried on the tradition he's had "a long, long time" while most of his teammates were showering, changing and leaving Scotiabank Place.

Wearing about half of his hockey equipment and the look of concentration you would see on a surgeon's face, McAmmond delicately balanced the blade of his right skate on the stall bench beside him. As usual, the left one would fall to the outside when he tried the same trick with it.

On behalf of the visitors to the room and his teammates who have noticed and wondered, the question had to be asked.

"Uh, Dean? Exactly why in hell are you doing that?"

Without looking up, McAmmond was quick with his response. "Because," he said. "I'm a mental nut case."

Upon further interrogation, McAmmond revealed the balancing act started years ago, before skate sharpeners became as good as they are today.

"Before, after they were sharpened, the edges could still be off," he said. "If they stand up really well, everything is pretty square."

The left one always falls over, he said, because of the way he skates. That doesn't stop McAmmond from trying.

A successful team needs the good offence and good defence the Senators had last night. McAmmond is helping them try to find a balance.

STARTS AND STOPS: Returning from the pulled calf muscle injury he incurred while hitting Buffalo's Johan Hecht in the third period of a Nov. 18 meeting with the Sabres was Anton Volchenkov. The "A-Train" missed only three games, which means he played through the pain in two more. "It feels pretty good now," he said yesterday morning. Good news for the Senators. Bad news for everyone they face ... A pane of glass inside the Senators blue line shattered to bits when Chris Phillips and Stephen Weiss crashed together early in the first. While both players were slow to get up, the crowd saved its applause until it appeared the two kids sitting in the front row where it happened were okay ... By rights, the Senators could have been up 6-0 or 7-0 through one period. Dany Heatley almost completed his hat trick after a nice set up by Jason Spezza at 13:40 mark and then again about 15 seconds later, when his shot from the slot was accidentally deflected away by the shaft of Alex Auld's goalie stick.

BETWEEN PERIODS: A visit by the Panthers, of course, meant another homecoming for Jacques Martin. The former Senators coach and his predecessor first met in the 1970s, when Bryan Murray was coaching the Rockland Nationals and Jack was a student at Ottawa U. "He would come to watch us practice and we'd talk hockey," Murray said when asked about their relationship yesterday morning. "We've said hello all the time over the years we ran into each other at different functions. He's a good guy, but we're not guys that ran around together," Murray added wryly. "He's a lot older than I am." ... Just when fans might have been getting a little tired of cheering Senators goals, Martin gave them something to heckle about. He threw Eddie Belfour to the wolves, replacing Auld at 6:01 of the second, after Ottawa's fifth goal ... Missing from the morning skate was Rob Gris, the producer of the A-Channel's Senators broadcasts. Where was he? Why, stuck in an elevator at the Westin Hotel for 45 minutes, that's where. At least it wasn't a boring time for Rob, who was continuously raised and dropped a few feet at a time.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: A good combination is Heatley and Spezza. Mike Fisher and Chris Neil. Antoine Vermette and Daniel Alfredsson. A bad combination is the flowery (paisley?) tie Stuntman Stu wore last night with that striped shirt ... It's about the group that calls itself Junkyard Symphony that debuted during a first period stop in play. Perhaps it should go back to performing where its instruments were found? ... Following up on that performance was a fine scoreboard feature to music on the "A-Train" and a humours effort featuring Spartacat in Barbados, coinciding with a new Senators promotion that will send the winner to Bert's Bar with Eugene Melnyk ... The last name of Panthers rookie Rob Globke, who is of Polish decent, sounds like the word for cabbage rolls in his native tongue.

WORKING THE CORNERS: Volchenkov, who is taking 16 hours of English classes from a Latvian teacher per month, says he used to be more of an offensive threat than he is now. "I like scoring, I like blocking shots, I like everything," he said of his game. "Right now, I'm playing more defensive. I'm a defenceman, I'm playing like a defenceman." And very well, it should be added ... His collision with Tom Preissing inside the Ottawa line during the second does not count towards Neil's NHL-leading hits total ... Fans didn't know whether to cheer or boo when an Alfredsson slashing penalty was announced just as the scoreboard showed the Thrashers had taken a 2-0 lead on the Leafs.


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