Murray does the shuffle

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Bryan Murray needs to perform a circus act this afternoon.

The Senators coach is being forced to juggle his lines against the Blackhawks because -- while he's getting lots of a good thing -- Murray is receiving zero from everybody else lately.

Yes, the reunion of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson has achieved the desired results.

But no forward other than Heatley and Spezza has scored in the past three games and only one other (Chris Kelly) has a goal in the past four games.

And besides Kelly, only one forward not on the Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson line has found mesh in the last five games, and that's Mike Fisher.

"That line got the two power-play goals," Murray said, referring to Friday's 4-2 loss in Atlanta, "but I have to get a little bit of balance here, there's no question."

To that end, Murray made a couple of adjustments before yesterday afternoon's practice at the Blackhawks' training facility in Bensenville, Ill.

Kelly was back on the right wing with Heatley and Spezza while Alfredsson was skating with Mike Comrie and Antoine Vermette.

The Senators round out their two-game road trip in a matinee (3 p.m.) meeting with the 'Hawks, who have dropped eight of their last nine.

"Mike Comrie is another guy who has a chance to get some points for us," said Murray. "Maybe with the two speed guys on the wing and him being a guy that goes to the net fairly aggressively, we'll get some results."

VERMETTE STRUGGLING

Vermette, whose 16 goals is the fourth highest on the team, hasn't scored in 14 games.

"We're going through tough times these days, we're unlucky it seems," said Vermette, who has lost the power-play time he was getting early on. "I'm aware my role is not all about putting the puck in the back of the net. But I have the ability to score and I want to score on a regular basis, to help my teammates. The last couple of games, we're sniffing around and the puck refuses to go in."

Said Murray: "(Vermette) has had some chances (but) he hasn't played quite the way he did early in the year.

"I'm sure he's a little frustrated with himself, and maybe with where he is and all the rest of it, but the bottom line is he's expected to play well for us, to kill penalties for us, to be a good role player for us, but also, we hope, that he will get some points for us."

Comrie hasn't picked up a point in six games since scoring in each of the three before that.

"It's not for lack of chances," said Comrie, who hasn't been this unproductive since the start of last season. "For this team to be successful, secondary scoring is crucial. We know we're going to get scoring from Heater, Alfie and Spez and that puts pressure on the rest of us to chip in, which is an important part of winning. You need everybody to chip in."

HITS 40-GOAL MARKER

Heatley accounted for all the offence in Atlanta and remains on a torrid pace, with eight goals in his last six games. He now has 40 on the season and, with 17 games left, is looking at a second consecutive 50-goal campaign.

Heading into yesterday's games, Heatley had also wedged himself between Tampa's Vincent Lecavalier (42) and Marty St. Louis (39) in what's shaping up as an intriguing race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

Meanwhile, the Senators will attempt to grab at least two points before coming home. While it's highly unlikely they can catch Buffalo, they are still the top team of all Eastern Conference non-division leaders.

"I kind of suggested before the trip that we could split here, and that's what we want to do," said Murray. "I want to see three periods. I thought for two we played pretty well (Friday).

"I think that's what happens in hockey some times. You play a pretty good game, and for whatever reason, you don't win. That was one of those games."


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