Sens try to straighten things out

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Anton Volchenkov is now literally black and blue from head to toe.

But that won't stop the Senators defenceman from being at his post tonight against the Rangers and sometimes-star Jaromir Jagr.

Volchenkov, part of the Senators' shutdown duo along with Chris Phillips, will wear a cage for tonight's game after sustaining a broken nose against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

"It's a little better," said the Senators defenceman, who always has a bruise of some colour on his body, the price for being the league's top shot-blocker.

Volchenkov got hit in the nose by Toronto's Alex Ponikarovsky on just the third shift of the game Saturday. Volchenkov's beak was rearranged and he had trouble breathing and did not return to the game.

He got it straightened out -- it was red and bruised yesterday -- and wore the cage in practice.

"Anton was a big loss for us Saturday night," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "He was a huge loss. They got the forecheck and got on us and we didn't have the matchup quite the same way."

Volchenkov and Phillips have been the guys to go up against the other team's top forward.

The Senators wound up blowing a 3-1 lead against the Leafs, the fourth time in five games they surrendered a lead in the third period.

Volchenkov and Phillips will draw the assignment of having to slow down Jagr as the Senators try and protect fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are battling for a playoff spot.

The Senators will continue to wrestle with the issue of being able to protect a lead and playing a complete game.

The collapse against the Leafs had a different smell to it than the one against the Penguins a week ago.

In that one, the Senators were in control and blew a 4-1 lead.

Saturday night, they were being soundly outplayed for long stretches by a more energetic Leafs team and if not for some outstanding play by Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery, there's no way they would have had a 3-1 lead going into the third period.

"It's a nice article and a nice commentary to talk about collapsing in the third period," said Murray. "They played more desperate than we did throughout the game. Ray Emery kept us in a position where we had a chance to win. We had similar turnovers in the first and second. They happened to score in the third ... that's the way we were playing the whole game.

"Coming off a big win and for them coming off a big loss, the teams appeared to approach it with a different passion.

"I made the point at the start of practice. It had little to do with the third period and a lot to do with our readiness to play the game. All we ask of our players for (tonight) is pay attention, get the game going and continue the pace as much as you can."

Murray fiddled with his lines in practice yesterday with it looking like winger Patrick Eaves will go into the lineup, likely at the expense of Oleg Saprykin. Eaves, who has dressed for only one of the last six games, practised yesterday with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.

For the second straight game Saturday, Saprykin didn't play a shift in the third period.

Eaves has been fighting a sore ankle.

"I sprained it and then I tweaked it, but if feels okay now," Eaves said yesterday.

In one noticeable development, winger Chris Neil was broken up from the Peter Schaefer/Mike Fisher tandem and his place taken by captain Daniel Alfredsson.

Forward Mike Comrie, who saw limited ice time in the last two periods Saturday, took Alfredsson's spot with Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly.

Neil skated on the fourth line with Dean McAmmond, Brian McGrattan and Saprykin yesterday.

When asked if those would be the lines for tonight, Murray, who is getting tired of being questioned about the line shuffling, replied: "I doubt it," but then added: "They'll be close to the lines."

You can't blame him for shuffling things up. On too many nights, the Senators have only seven or eight forwards going. The coach has often no choice but to try and get the guys who are going together.


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