Heats is on for Sens

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Of the 153 goals he has scored in his NHL career, Dany Heatley is sad to say he knows exactly how many have come with his team playing shorthanded.

"Three," he recalled with a chuckle yesterday. "One against Pittsburgh and two now against Buffalo. That's how bad it is, that I know that."

Bad for the Sabres that he got that third one Wednesday night, maybe.

Heatley's "shortie" 24:53 from the opening faceoff broke a scoreless tie and was the springboard for Ottawa's four-goal, second period explosion en route to a 6-3 victory over the best team in the conference.

Heatley figured in on all four of the tallies, scoring three and adding a helper. In doing so, he became just the second player since 1996-97 (along with Kings winger Alexander Frolov) to score a power play, even strength and shorthanded goal all in the same period.

The outburst also helped the only 50-goal scorer in Senators history break out of something of a funk.

Heading into the game, Heatley had scored just twice in his previous 13. And the irony of that is, during that stretch he has played some of his best hockey as a Senator.

With both Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette out, Heatley is killing penalties like he occasionally did in Atlanta -- on every third forward unit. He's also playing a more gritty, physical game, displaying a level of effort and hard work that winners put forth in the playoffs.

It's like without injured centre Jason Spezza, Heatley realizes he has to go and get the opportunities that would normally be presented to him.

"Maybe it took guys being out of the lineup to get us a little desperate as a group," said Heatley, who now has 23 on the season and, heading into last night's action, was both two off the league lead and tied for sixth in the scoring race with 50 points. "We're playing hard, we're sticking to the game plan and we're not taking as many chances. We're kind of playing more straight ahead.

"It's been like that for everybody. Volchie (defenceman Anton Volchenkov) blocked a shot with his head (in the Sabres game). Guys are doing what they can to get us points."

Their efforts have certainly been rewarded. The Senators have not lost in regulation time since Spezza, their leading scorer, went down with a knee injury. In that spree, they have won six of seven games, grabbing 13 of a possible 14 points to move into a fifth-place tie (again, before last night) with Carolina.

Spezza skated early yesterday morning and, while both he and Fisher are progressing in recovery from knee ailments, coach Bryan Murray said he'll wait to see where they stand after the all-star break later this month.

Vermette also skated yesterday and is scheduled to practise with the team this morning for the first time since suffering a hip injury. His status for Saturday"s home matinee meeting with the New Jersey Devils is questionable.

"You find out a lot about people," Murray said, referring to the adversity of losing his top three centres at the same time. "A guy like Dean McAmmond ... we couldn't find a spot for him and when he did play, we were not real happy with what he was doing. Now (with increased time and responsibility), he's playing well. Players find out about themselves and the character of the group. A lot of people have had to step up."

And play the system preached by Murray.

"They tried at times to do that, but they weren't totally convinced they had to," he said of what could be summed up as a chip, chase and get back hard style of play. "Now they know they have to, that if you don't play that way you can get embarrassed by teams, especially the good ones."

ICE CHIPS: Captain Daniel Alfredsson and Ray Emery both missed practice yesterday to "rest." Both are expected to be back on the ice today ... Centre Josh Hennessy has been returned to Binghamton (AHL).


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