Fisher into the frying pan

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- He said it in jest, but it is going to have to be true.

"We looked good," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

He was talking about the Senators' new top line, a new trio sprung out of the aftermath of a knee injury to top centre Jason Spezza, expected to be out at least a month.

They are going to have to do more than just look good if the Senators, losers of six of their last eight, coming off two straight home losses, incapable of scoring or playing defence lately, are going to hold things together in the absence of Spezza, their offensive catalyst.

They are going to have to be good. Very good.

Senators coach Bryan Murray put centre Mike Fisher between Alfredsson and Dany Heatley at practice yesterday in preparation for this afternoon's meeting with the last-place Flyers.

So, what did you think, coach?

"Well, in practice, with nobody against them, they made a couple of passes," said Murray, deadpan.

"I'd be very interested to see them play against an opponent. I know that Mike Fisher will bring lots of energy and by putting Alfie back there it kind of hurts us a little bit on another line.

"But we've got to get a line that has a chance to put pressure on and maybe score some goals for us in a game like (today's)."

Fisher is excited about the opportunity, but also knows he needs to bring more to the table, regardless of the players he's lined up with.

"I know I have to contribute more than I have lately," said Fisher, who is pointless in four games and has just one goal and one assist in his last seven games.

"I'm not going to replace Jason Spezza offensively, but I'll do my best. I've got to be better even if Jason Spezza wasn't hurt."

Heatley, who has played with Spezza whenever Spezza has dressed, said he will have to make only minor adjustments to playing with Fisher.

"With Fisher it's more of a straight-ahead game. Spezza likes to look for the seams and the holes and play more of a side-to-side game," said Heatley. "Alfie's as creative as it gets so it should be an interesting fit. I think we can do some good things."

The other lines shaped up this way: Peter Schaefer-Antoine Vermette-Chris Neil; Patrick Eaves-Chris Kelly-Christoph Schubert; and Denis Hamel-Dean McAmmond-Brian McGrattan.

Murray said there were no plans to call anybody up from Binghamton, but if somebody is needed, the Baby Sens were conveniently playing here against the Phantoms last night.

TIME FOR A TRADE?: If Senators GM John Muckler was thinking about making a deal to help his floundering team out, you think the urgency might have just gone up a bit with word Spezza is out for maybe as much as a month, if not more? Time for those Ryan Malone rumours to start again? The Senators have long been interested in the Penguins winger (they tried to get him at the trade deadline last year), but that darn salary cap complicates things and Malone has been playing great for the Pens.

BLUE LINE BLUES?: With Spezza and his offence out, now wouldn't be a bad time for the Senators defence to step up with a point or two. As a group, the top guys have done almost nothing offensively lately. Chris Phillips has gone 10 games without a point. Joe Corvo and Andrej Meszaros each have one point in eight games. Anton Volchenkov has no points in his last 14 games. Schubert, who is back up front with the return of Wade Redden, had two goals and six assists in Redden's absence and Tom Preissing has seven points in his last 12 games.

TIGHTEN IT UP: Without Spezza, the Senators might have to try playing more low-scoring games, but there is little evidence to suggest they can do that. Redden was upset with the number of turnovers and failures to get the puck deep as the Senators blew a 2-1 lead and lost to the Lightning on Thursday night, pointing out that Murray tells them "20 times a day" to get the puck in deep and forecheck. Murray had to be glad to see somebody is paying attention. "We talk about it every day. We talk about not turning the puck over, about not losing a third man, about being happy and willing to put the puck in deep and forecheck and we get caught up in ourselves," said Murray. "We keep hammering away at it. We're halfway through the year almost and we've got to get these people ... we have to do that. Losing Jason and the points that come with him, we have to be more content to play low-scoring games." Well, it is Christmas, a time when anything is possible, huh?


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