Supporting actors show signs of life

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

The cheer was big in the second period at Scotiabank Place last night.

The sigh of relief might have been bigger.

When a puck popped out of the midsection of Nashville Predators goaltender Dan Ellis, Senators winger Antoine Vermette was right there to snap home the rebound.

It was Vermette's first goal in 11 games, just his second in 18 games and only his fourth of the season. It was also just his second point in 10 games.

It's been a struggle for the 25-year-old, but maybe finally finding the net will help get him going. His goal last night, halfway through the second period tied the game 2-2.

The Senators were counting on him to be one of the guys to supply second-line scoring behind the big three of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.

But the struggles of Vermette and Mike Fisher (no goals in 11 games going into last night) have made it tough for the Senators at a time when the club has had its struggles in its own end, too.

It also didn't hurt that the shot that turned into that fat rebound for Vermette was taken by Randy Robitaille, whose assist was his first point in 10 games (he also missed two with a sore hand which has hurt his ability to handle the puck and shoot).

Judging by that good, hard shot, it looks like he's healthy now. Little steps, right?

HEAR AND THERE: The voting for the NHL's major awards won't take place for months, but that didn't stop Spezza from starting his campaigning yesterday. No, it wasn't for the Hart Trophy. Spezza made a nice play to break up a 2-on-1 in overtime against the New York Islanders on Wednesday night and spent 42 seconds killing penalties. "I'm looking for the Selke, I think," said Spezza of the award given the league's best defensive forward. In a rough patch for the Sens, that really was good for a laugh.

HELP OUR TROOPS: The Senators launched their Tickets for Troops plan yesterday, encouraging fans to donate their tickets for the Jan. 17 game against the Carolina Hurricanes so more of our deserving members of the armed forces and their families can attend the game. That's all part of Canadian Forces Appreciation Night for which 1,200 tickets have already been donated by supporters. The Senators will be notifying their season tickets holders Dec. 3 on how they can donate their tickets by Dec. 22. Fans who donate tickets will get a tax receipt for the value of the tickets, less taxes.

REVELATIONS: Nashville coach Barry Trotz is a guy who does a good job year after year no matter what the situation throws at him. Money has always been an issue in Nashville -- especially this year with the ownership in transition -- but the Preds are always a hard-working, competitive team. The Predators have a payroll this year of "just" $35.466 million and have $16.4 million worth of cap space. "Payroll doesn't make you a good team," said Trotz one of the best coaches in the game. Unfortunately, he's stuck in a place where hardly anybody notices.

SPECULATIONS: Senators F Nick Foligno got into the Nashville crease and got a scrum going in the second period, drawing the attention of Preds D Shea Weber. That's the kind of jam the Senators need from Foligno ...Weber, by the way, got a nice compliment from Senators coach John Paddock, who referred to him yesterday morning as the "Dion Phaneuf of the South or the East or whatever." Nashville is in the West, but we know what he means ... The Predators have only three players making more than $3 million: C Jason Arnott ($4.5 million) injured F Steve Sullivan ($3.2 million) and D Marek Zidlicky ($3.2 million) and they were two points out of a playoff spot in the West.

LEMME SAY THIS ABOUT THAT: This is the way it goes when a team is struggling: Chris Neil is all alone in front of Nashville goaltender Dan Ellis early in the second and instead of one-touching Chris Kelly's feed, he opts to deke to his backhand. That gave him even more empty net, but, unfortunately, the puck had other ideas ... After Nashville's Ryan Suter scored on a rebound in the third, I guess we're going to have another day of listening to this year's buzz phrase "rebound control." Never mind there were no Senators around to help out G Martin Gerber.


Videos

Photos