Sens add penalty-killing panache

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Dany Heatley is enjoying the role of spoiler.

"Sometimes, when you go a little while without scoring a power-play goal, it gets a little frustrating," the Senators star said yesterday. "So it actually feels pretty good to do the same thing to the other team's best players."

Heatley has paired with Antoine Vermette on the penalty kill the last two games, giving the Senators not just a third tandem (to go with Daniel Alfredsson-Chris Kelly and Peter Schaefer-Dean McAmmond), but also one that is capable of striking.

A highlight of the 3-1 victory over Boston on Saturday saw Heatley, on a short-handed shift, stickhandle the puck from the neutral zone through the Bruins until he got behind their net. There, he outbattled big Paul Mara along the boards before finally spotting an open Vermette out front. Vermette says he thinks he would have put the puck in the net had he not been hooked by P.J. Axelsson, who drew a penalty on the play.

"They'll be a threat to score short-hand goals for us, when we really need it," Senators coach Bryan Murray said of Heatley-Vermette, a PK pairing he plans on keeping together for, oh, at least tonight.

"There are no guarantees," the coach added with a smile. "All they have to do is screw up once ... "

Even still, Murray plans to keep building on the extra ice time his top players have been getting. While Wade Redden led all Senators Saturday at 23:54, Alfredsson (22:37) wasn't far behind.

And that was quite a drop from the almost 28 minutes Alfredsson played in Boston a week earlier.

"I think you want some of your better players to keep their minutes up there, so that their conditioning is up there and (in the playoffs) they can play the bulk of the time," said Murray. "But I also really respect what guys like (Christoph) Schubert and McAmmond did for us (when injuries hit) and I don't want to take them out of the mix."

As far as his approach to killing penalties, Heatley says he is following the lead of the captain.

"I watch Alfie a lot ... he'll get a chance to go in for something and he'll take it," said Heatley, "but if there's nothing there, he doesn't take chances.

"But if you get a chance to step in on them and create something on a kill, it's definitely what you want to do."

THIS AND THAT: D Andrej Meszaros laughs at the "hit" he delivered on Ryan Getzlaf at the YoungStars game last week -- if you missed it, they bumped into each other and a "miked" Getzlaf fell and congratulated Meszaros on the check -- but Meszaros was throwing his weight around pretty good against the Bruins in the first game back. He was the Senators co-leader in hits with Chris Neil at four. "If I have a chance to play the puck, I play the puck and I don't play the body," said Meszaros. "But I don't mind playing the body. It depends on the situation. I just want to make plays." Meszaros enjoyed his time in Dallas, meeting new guys and hanging with the stars. As for the YoungStars game, well, he's heard the negative feedback. "I heard what they said, that it wasn't so exciting for the fans," said Meszaros. "But it was a 4-on-4 game ... with only 10 or 11 on each team. It was kind of different. They say it was bad, but I think everybody there had fun."

ICE CHIPS: C Mike Fisher remains on track to return next Saturday against the Leafs. "It was good to see (Jason Spezza) come back and have a real good game," said Fisher. "We were training all along together, and until the setback I was doing great and probably would have been back (for the 3-1 win over Boston), too." ... The Senators have clicked just once in their last 20 chances on the power play. "Quite often it's the goalie from the other team," said Murray, who pinpointed the reason for Saturday's 0-for-5 performance. "We just didn't shoot at all from the blue line." ... Murray was surprised to learn Alfredsson lost his assist on Ottawa's empty-net "awarded" goal when Bruins C Marc Savard threw his stick to knock the puck away from Vermette on a breakaway. "Oh well, that's life," Murray said. "He'll get it (tonight)."


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