Comrie finds seat on bench

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

TORONTO -- From first line to no line.

In the Senators' unsettled scheme of things right now, that's what can happen -- and quickly.

Newly acquired winger Oleg Saprykin started Thursday night's win over the Maple Leafs on a line with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza.

Nice company, huh?

He's the eighth player this season to get a shot on right wing with Ottawa's dynamic duo.

By the third period, he was centring the line of "me, myself and I," and did not see the ice in the final 20 minutes.

Forward Mike Comrie, regarded as a top-six guy when he arrived in January, was on the fourth line Thursday night and saw three shifts in the first and second periods and just one in the third.

MORE JUGGLING

It looks like there could be more changes for tonight's rematch with the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre as coach Bryan Murray will continue to shuffle the deck. Forward Patrick Eaves, who's been the odd man out since Saprykin was acquired at the trade deadline, skated with Heatley and Spezza yesterday.

Heatley and Spezza have had those eight wingers this year.

Is playing with them that tough?

"It's not easy," joked captain Daniel Alfredsson, one of the eight.

Comrie and Saprykin are having trouble fitting into the lineup. In Saprykin's case, Murray is still finding out what he can do.

In Comrie's case, well ...

"I said to Mike before practice (that) when he first came here, he was really jumping and doing good things. It has to do with the ice time, as well. In a few games, I didn't think he's as good as he has been. His reply, and it's the right one, is: 'I'm afraid of making a mistake. I know I'll go to the bench.'

"My point is I can live with mistakes. If a guy turns the puck over occasionally, I can live with that. What I want to see every night from everybody is effort. If you play 100%, you can try things, you're allowed to try things as long as you work hard without the puck. He understood what I was talking about."

Comrie, who has one assist in his last nine games and is minus-7 in that time, committed a turnover that led to a goal against the Penguins on Tuesday night.

"Players go through ups and downs. I'm fighting it a little bit," Comrie said. "The main concern here is winning hockey games. There's still a lot of games left before the playoffs, so it's a matter of peaking at the right time.

"I have to work harder. When you get in a situation where you're fighting it a little bit, you start overthinking. Everybody wants to play. Everybody wants to score, but the main thing is winning hockey games."

FAILED EXPERIMENT

Murray said his experiment using Saprykin on the right side with Heatley and Spezza simply didn't work.

After Saprykin struggled getting the puck out of the Ottawa zone, Murray used Comrie there for a shift or two, then went to Dean McAmmond, who complemented them nicely once again, scoring a goal to go with his short-handed tally earlier in the game.

"I hadn't given (Saprykin) very much ice time in the early games he was here. He's not used to playing right wing and I knew that," said Murray. "I went to him before (the game) and asked him if he could try to do that for us," said Murray.

"The problem is if you don't play that position and they pinch as the Toronto 'D' did regularly, it becomes difficult along the wall. It was nothing more than that. We couldn't get the puck out on some shifts in our end. I just felt I had to move him out of there. Dean appears to be a guy who can do that pretty well."

While Saprykin and Comrie have tumbled, McAmmond, an unheralded free-agent signing last summer, has proved himself to be very valuable in a number of roles.

But he was back on the fourth line in practice yesterday with Saprykin, Comrie and Brian McGrattan.

"I said to Dean before practice, I want you to understand I'm not really that dumb. I put you back at centre (yesterday). I know where you fit," said Murray. "I need him at centre ice at times too to make up another line. It is really nice to have a guy like him that can flip up on the wing, who's very responsible, a good skater and when he kicks in goals like he did (Thursday) night, it's obviously a bonus."

Until he has a team of a dozen superstars, Murray said the line juggling is a fact of life.


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