In what is shaping up as by far and away his best of nine NHL seasons, Chris Phillips is adding a new dimension to his game.
The Senators' No. 4 is bringing some offensive to the table.
Phillips' goal in the first period last night was his eighth of the season, a new career high for the esteemed veteran. It also tied him with Tampa's Dan Boyle for second in even-strength goals by a defenceman, at seven.
Lubomir Visnovsky of the Los Angeles Kings has 10.
Phillips has been particularly hot since of late, scoring six times in his last 22 games. What gives? Well, coincidentally or not, that's also about how long he's been wearing his new winter jacket to the rink.
"My wife (Erin) gave it to me for Christmas," he said yesterday.
Displayed prominently is the brand name of the coat. It's a Spyder.
That would make Phillips the Senators' Spyderman -- not to mention somebody they should probably also start thinking about using on the power play.
STARTS AND STOPS: As the cynical Senators fan settled into his seat wondering which of Martin Gerber or Anton Volchenkov was going to block more Florida Panthers shots last night, he probably didn't even catch Lyndon Slewidge's subliminal mention of a guy who is likely going to get a chance to stop pucks for the Senators in the future. That would be Kelly "Stand On" Guard "For Thee." Recalled from Binghamton while Ray Emery is suspended, Guard auditioned at an Anaheim rookie camp three years ago, when Bryan Murray was the Ducks' loudest quacker. To say he rolled into town would probably be appropriate. "I was a little heavier and slower," said Guard, who has compiled a 25-19-1 record and 3.01 GAA in Bingo. "I hope I impress him more this time." How much heavier? "Almost 30 lbs.," said Guard. "I was about 220 and I'm 185 now. During the lockout year, I played in the East Coast League (with Charlotte Checkers). I worked on my fitness and started eating well. Funny thing is, I didn't even realize I was so out of shape." Said Murray: "He looks like a very good prospect for us. He definitely looks like a guy who will play some games in the NHL."
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: Asked if his game would change with the backup goalie behind him, Volchenkov smiled and shook his head. "I play the same," he said. "I don't try to have six block shots, or 10 block shots. If the situation is for a blocked shot, I block a shot." .... As if he doesn't get beaten up enough in games, Volchenkov blocked a Tom Preissing shot during yesterday's morning skate. Looked like he took it square in the cup, too, although A-Train said no, the puck hit him in the upper thigh beside his rubbles. Afterward, Preissing admitted he wasn't sure where he nailed his teammate, but he didn't appear overly concerned, either. "He's Russian," said the Professor. "He's probably got body parts I don't know of." We'll get back to you when we figure out what that means ... In the third minute, Volchenkov was able to tee up a slap shot from the high slot, but he put it over both Ed Belfour and the Panthers net. Had he found mesh, it would have ended his goal-less drought at a nice round 80 games. It's already been more than a calendar year (Feb. 2) since his last goal, which was against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
BETWEEN PERIODS: Nice to see Mike Fisher show his old fire with a first-period fight against Chris Gratton. He has to remember he's not his old self, though, and if he's going to scrap, he's also going to have to do a better job getting his helmet off. Gratton's hand must still be stinging from the pounding he gave Fisher's visor ... Twenty years ago yesterday, broadcaster Garry Galley was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the Washington Capitals for goalie Al Jensen ... Murray on talk that Emery is suddenly the loose cannon he was reputed to be in the minors: "I'm not sure why it's anything more than the pats on the back Billy Smith got years ago for being a tough guy to compete against."
BOTTOM SHELF STUFF: Guard has a Memorial Cup tattoo near the bottom of his left leg in honour of the junior championship he won with the Kelowna Rockets. "All the guys got it, except maybe three or four because of their religious beliefs," said Guard. "Maybe I should have got mine on the shoulder. This way, it makes it look like I have cankles." That would be the word used to describe a calf that turns into an ankle, with no discernible transition point ... Once a Senators video coach who would suit up in goalie pads whenever the team needed one in practice, former Barrhaven resident Pierre Groulx is doing well for himself in Florida. Now he's a Panthers assistant coach, with Guy Charron and George Kingston.