Heatley hoping for Nifty Fifty

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

ATLANTA -- Will Dany Heatley score 50 goals again this year?

His centre one-timed that question yesterday.

"Yes," said Jason Spezza without hesitation. "He's got himself within striking distance ... he may even quietly sneak up on old Vinny."

That would be Tampa's Vincent Lecavalier, who heading into last night's action was the frontrunner for the Rocket Richard Trophy with 41 goals.

With 18 games to go, the only player to score 50 goals in a Senators jersey has 38.

Last season, Heatley scored 12 goals in the final 16 games to finish with 50.

"It's always a goal," he said of the mark. "There are 18 games left. It's going to be tough to do, for sure. But for me, especially with these two, you just want to keep shooting the puck."

The two he's referring to are Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, the line that helped Senators fans to a lot of free Pizza Pizza pizza last season. This year, coach Bryan Murray has tried to spread the offence more -- using Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson mostly just in the third period, when the team needed a shot in the arm -- but he did put the Big Three together for the entire game Wednesday. Heatley and Spezza scored the goals in a 2-0 win over Carolina.

"I don't think we sit and plan what we should do," Alfredsson said when asked what makes the line click. "We just go out there and try to read off each other. If we don't know what we're doing, the other team doesn't either."

Murray would like to keep the trio together, but that depends on whether he can get anything from the remaining cast. The other lines should be the same tonight: Peter Schaefer-Mike Fisher-Chris Neil, Antoine Vermette-Chris Kelly-Mike Comrie and Christoph Schubert-Dean McAmmond-Oleg Saprykin.

THIS AND THAT: Having played his 600th career game Wednesday, Chris Phillips is supposed to start getting his own hotel room on the road now (by CBA rules). Except that he has been afforded the luxury for a while now. Players were credited with the 82 games to their totals during the lockout ... G Ray Emery admitted that he lost some confidence in what he played of back-to-back 6-5 games with Buffalo last week. He got it back with his fifth shutout and eighth of his career Wednesday. "That was as good a practice as I've seen Ray have in a long time," Murray said yesterday. "(Wednesday) he was excellent. We continue to get that kind of play, it gives you a chance every night." ... Murray expects the Thrashers to pull back a little from past, goalie-running antics tonight. "I can't believe now, after what's happened and the attention we've brought to it and a few other teams have brought to it ... that they will be allowed to do very much," said Murray. "But will they stop? They'll drive the net. They'll try to do things around the net to score goals." Murray on Atlanta: "When you do what they did, you bring an attitude to your room. Keith Tkachuk is a real solid player, he gives them physical presence and he's a guy that scores lots of goals in this league ... to put him with (Ilya) Kovalchuk and kids of that nature ... now the attention has to shift a little from Kovalchuk, which opens the door for those types of guys to play better. Alexei Zhtnik gives them mobility and a veteran presence and the blueline. They're going to be a solid team, I believe, down the stretch."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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