It's all on the line

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

ATLANTA -- Smart guy, that John Paddock.

Four games into his time as head coach of the Senators and he's figured at least one thing out.

When Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza play together, they make up the best line in hockey.

So, why fret about secondary scoring when they are scoring like they are and the team is winning?

That's kind of like scoring a date with Jessica Alba and worrying about when the next one is going to be.

Who cares?

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Until they got to the Stanley Cup final last spring, the Pizza Line rolled through the opposition like Brian Burke through a question about Kevin Lowe.

The line is rolling again now with a combined 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) through the Senators' first four games, all wins.

Paddock was asked yesterday if it's possible he would break up the top line.

"At least for the next four games, it's impossible," said Paddock. "We'll have to see after that."

Not that he hasn't thought about the fact only two other forwards have scored goals this season -- Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly -- each of them with one.

Balanced scoring was an issue last year, at times, and kept Bryan Murray -- now the GM -- doodling numerous line combinations on yellow legal pads.

"Now I know why Bryan was playing with his lines all the time on the plane," said Paddock. "For two years he was searching for it. But searching in a winning situation is a nice puzzle to have. It's a lot worse puzzle if you're struggling.

"At this point, we'll keep it as is until something significant makes me change my mind."

Paddock is stacking his deck to get his club through a goofy schedule. Tonight's game against the Thrashers is their fifth in a stretch that will see them play seven games in the first 11 days of the season.

Paddock is going to ride his big horses, knowing he can give them a break after this weekend when the Senators will play just two games in about two weeks.

Until the Senators run into somebody who's capable of stopping the Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson combination, why change?

Paddock isn't even worrying about matchups at this point. Teams tried to match lines in the playoffs last year.

The Pittsburgh Penguins tried power against power with Sidney Crosby. They were done in five games.

The New Jersey Devils tried to use their checking line. Done in five.

The Buffalo Sabres tried a little of everything. Done in five.

It wasn't until the big line ran into the Ducks and Samuel Pahlsson, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, that they slowed down. The Senators were done in five.

"If we score goals and win games, John is not going to change much," said Spezza. "That's our best bet to keep playing together."

Alfredsson, typically, was selfless.

"I've talked to John and he knows I'm fine where ever I play, where ever he thinks I'll be able to help the team most," said the captain.

"I obviously like playing with Jason and Dany."

When it comes to his top line right now, Paddock's attitude is pretty much: "Try an stop 'em."

Nobody has been able to so far.

HEAR AND THERE

Senators goaltender Ray Emery said yesterday's practice was the best he's had on the comeback trail with his surgically-repaired left wrist. "I didn't think about it all the time. I didn't take any awkward shots or anything," he said. "I still have to get my feet under me and try and get sharp." Emery said the club's 4-0 start and the fine play of goaltender Martin Gerber have made things easier for him. "It isn't a scramble to try and get back. It's a situation where I can wait until I'm good and ready." ... Forwards Chris Neil and Mike Fisher skipped practice yesterday, but will play tonight. Neil was sore after being a physical presence against the New York Rangers and Devils. Fisher got a maintenance day for his groin (and can't we all use one of those every now and then?) ... C Dean McAmmond, who also hurt his shoulder on the Steve Downie hit, took some shots yesterday. He's still about 2-3 weeks away from returning ... The Thrashers, who have given up eight goals in two games, are one of four winless teams in the league and GM Don Waddell and coach Bob Hartley are up near the top of those "first to be fired" lists.


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