Georgia on Hossa's mind

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

ATLANTA -- He is a large part of the Senators' past and a potential key to their future, but Marian Hossa would speak only of the here and now.

Not that anyone could expect different.

"What's he going to say?" shrugged one Ottawa player yesterday when told the Thrashers star had just left the door wide open to the possibility of prolonging his career in Georgia. "It would be tough to play at home (tonight) if he says he wanted to go somewhere else. Take it for what it's worth."

The Senators take a six-game winning streak into tonight's game at Philips Arena, where the Thrashers snapped a four-game skid Tuesday after separating Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Goalie Martin Gerber will make his fourth consecutive start, Daniel Alfredsson will attempt to stretch his point-scoring streak to 10 games, Luke Richardson will try to extend his goal-scoring streak to two games, and Chris Phillips plans to continue his exceptional defensive play without his regular partner, the injured Anton Volchenkov.

For Phillips, that means shifts against an old teammate.

The jewel of next season's free-agent market if Atlanta doesn't re-sign him, Hossa will almost certainly be dealt by GM Don Waddell rather than be allowed to walk and fetch zilch, if the Thrashers are out of playoff contention at the trade deadline.

If such is the case, the Senators would have to be interested, as GM Bryan Murray is intent on acquiring a top six forward before the playoffs.

Hossa, who has 12 goals and 19 assists for a 13th-place Thrashers team, would certainly fit the description.

188 GOALS WITH SENS

"I've heard some rumours, but I don't pay too much attention to them," Hossa, who scored 188 goals in 467 games as a Senator from 1997-2004, told an audience of one following a workout.

"I'm here right now, and my focus is to help this team. Whatever happens, it's up to management and my agent.

"I feel comfortable here. It's a great place," he added. "The main thing is winning the hockey games and having a good team. That's my priority. I'm not rushing right now to sign a deal ... I want to know how the team is."

Alfredsson thinks the first-place Senators are fine as is.

"We have a really good team and I don't see the need for us to do anything right now," said Alfredsson. "I think everybody is playing well, everybody is working hard ... Right now you can look at names and think (this guy or that guy) would be a great fit or not, but right now it's too early."

Alfredsson refuses to buy into the theory that the Senators lost the Cup final to Anaheim because they didn't have the secondary scoring a guy like Hossa would almost certainly provide.

"You can turn and look and analyze things 10 different ways," said Alfredsson. "I go back and say our 5-on-3 in Game 1 was the biggest difference in the series. We're up 2-1, we could make it 3-1 ... we hit the post, we don't score ... if we win Game 1 everybody says we were unbelievable. But we don't do that, we end up losing, and you can analyze it any way you want.

"If you could, you'd like to have three lines that could produce. Everybody would like that. But in this era, with the salary cap, that's pretty much impossible."

Hossa, meanwhile, will again be skating alongside winger Vyacheslav Kozlov, whom he worked with last season, and Eric Perrin.

Former Senator Todd White, will be between Kovalchuk and Mark Recchi.

"It's a good move," Hossa said of Waddell's decision to take him off the White-Kovalchuk line.

"We've been productive together, but right now the focus is more on two lines than one line ... We had some chances (Tuesday) night, but most important we got the two points."


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