'Pride in the jersey'

Ottawa Senators defenceman Wade Redden exits from a team meeting prior to practice followed by...

Ottawa Senators defenceman Wade Redden exits from a team meeting prior to practice followed by teammates Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips yesterday at Scotiabank Place. (Ottawa Sun/Errol McGihon)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

A "nothing" incident at Senators practice yesterday morning was something, all right.

It was at least partly a product of the frustration and embarrassment left over from the night before -- and far too many nights leading into it.

Forwards Chris Neil and Antoine Vermette did a little shoving and a whole lot of jawing at each other following a drill late in the session. At one point, they were separated by team cop Brian McGrattan, but shortly thereafter were back chirping again.

Naturally, both players dismissed the confrontation after what was the lone opportunity the team had to make corrections before tonight's (7:30 p.m.) visit by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"We had a high intensity practice," said Neil, "and whenever you go high intensity, that happens.

"It's one of those things where we had a different opinion and we talked about it. It's not even an issue. It's just a misunderstanding."

Vermette also said his nose-to-nose with the franchise's all-time penalty minutes leader was inconsequential, and he went on to make a couple of lighthearted jokes about it. But he also turned dead serious when it was suggested the Senators might be more than a little on edge after receiving a 7-2 walloping by the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday.

The stinging result marked the fifth time in the 2006 calendar year -- and third time this season -- Ottawa had lost a game by five or more goals.

Not only does it make the Senators one of just four teams to lose that many times by such a margin since Jan. 1, but it also equals the combined number of five-goal losses they had from 1999-2005.

No wonder reporters in attendance yesterday had to remind each other that the foul odour in the air when the Senators stepped on the ice was actually coming from the machines being used by arena construction workers.

'EMBARRASSING'

"It's embarrassing when you lose like that, especially in front of our fans," said Vermette. "They don't deserve that.

"We have to take more pride in our jersey. We have to step up as a team. We have character in this dressing room. We have to bring it in a game."

Coach Bryan Murray didn't even notice the Neil-Vermette exchange, as it occurred in a far corner of the rink. But he was not at all disappointed to hear about it later.

"That's good," he said. "That's really good. I like guys that compete and care about getting things done, whether it's in practice or a game."

Murray adamantly denies any notion there are players on his team who simply don't care enough. But he did refresh the group on a few facts of life during a meeting prior to practice.

"It's not an easy league and (we) can't take a night off anymore," Murray told the players. "We're not that type of team. We have to be more focused on the game.

The thing is, we know they can do it. We've seen it. That's the frustrating part for a coach, and I'm sure the fans."

Their on-again, off-again trend will have to continue against the Bolts, unless they want the 13th-ranked team in the conference creeping to within one point of them.

Heading back to the cage will be Ray Emery, who was pulled after allowing five goals on 20 shots through two periods Monday. But Emery isn't alone in needing to rebound.

"For whatever reason, we've really been an up and down team this season," said Murray. "After a stinker, we've been able to respond by playing really good hockey. They'll have to (tonight)."


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