Dilemma time for Murray

Winger Dany Heatley slips a goal past netminder Ray Emery in the breakaway relay during the...

Winger Dany Heatley slips a goal past netminder Ray Emery in the breakaway relay during the Senators' skills competition at Scotiabank Place yesterday. (Sun Media/Sean Kilpatrick)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

Bryan Murray has a big decision to make.

Does he permanently reunite centre Jason Spezza with wingers Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson?

That is the question as the Senators get two full days to prepare to face the Sabres on Wednesday in Buffalo.

Murray didn't hesitate to combine the talented trio in the third period of Saturday night's 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the Senators coach isn't sure they will stay together.

Chris Kelly did a standout job playing between Alfredsson and Heatley while Spezza was out with a knee injury. Kelly, though, lacks the natural ability to put the puck in the net that Spezza possesses.

"That's the dilemma I have right now," Murray said yesterday before the Senators took part in their skills competition at Scotiabank Place.

MATCH UPS

"I want that line to be able to match up against (Mats) Sundin's line,'' he explained. ''When you go on the road, the other team is going to match totally. That's the best defence, to put your checking line against (Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza). That's a big part of the game and they're going to have to face that.

"I've got the coaches in the office right now. We're just going to go through what we should be doing this week as far as gameplans go with matchups and line combinations. Certainly, there are stages in the game where I want to (put them together). Do I want to do it all the time? I'm not sure."

Spezza started Saturday's game with Peter Schaefer and Mike Fisher as his wingers. After an uninspiring performance in the second period by the whole team, Fisher was moved back to the middle with Kelly on the right.

Murray said he is the type of coach to write out different line combinations on paper and he could experiment today in practice.

"I do it all the time. (Yesterday) morning, I went through two or three pages just sitting down and going through what we have to do with personnel and how we're going to play," said Murray. "If you get a top centre like Mats Sundin against a guy like (Spezza), we don't get anymore offence out of (Spezza) than Toronto does with Sundin.

"(Spezza's) playing at a high level right now. I was a little nervous having that matchup in a tie game, but to come from behind, it's the right thing to do. They have a lot of chemistry offensively."

Murray said there's a lot he likes about putting Spezza with Heatley and Alfredsson, which is why he won't rule it out.

''I like their creativity, offence, they have puck possession," he said. "Obviously, they're the best three scorers on our team and they give us that dimension. It takes some offence away from our secondary scoring, and in playoffs and tight games you need that second line that can get points for you as well.

"That's the dilemma I have. You can leave (Alfredsson) where I had him before and put him on a different line. You can put Heatley and Spezza back together. Kelly with (Heatley and Alfredsson) was really doing a good job.

''It's something I'm wrestling with."

AROUND THE BOARDS: With the playoff race heating up, Murray said the Senators have to be ready for a challenge every night. "There's a lot of teams playing well right now, not only for a position in the playoffs, but positioning once they get into the playoffs," he said. "I watched some of the highlight's from the Philadelphia-Atlanta game Saturday and you can't even take (the basement-dwelling Flyers) lightly. They go in and hammer Atlanta (5-2). Being ready to play and having your best players play well every night is going to continue to be a real priority." ... RW Patrick Eaves didn't take part in the skills competition because of soreness. He should be fine to play against the Sabres ... Asked what he was going to do to celebrate his 25th birthday, which is today, D Christoph Schubert told the Team 1200's Gord Wilson: "Everybody has to watch the Super Bowl, so I'm going to go over to Wade Redden's house, watch the game and drink all his beer."


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