Bass drops the gloves

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

ATLANTA -- Like a lot of kids, all Cody Bass really wanted for Christmas was an Ottawa Senators jersey with his name on the back.

The Santa who bears a striking resemblance to Bryan Murray ensured the 20-year-old would get his wish, first recalling Bass from Binghamton when Mike Fisher was injured, then by deciding he was good enough to keep around at least through the NHL's roster freeze period, which runs from 12:01 a.m. yesterday to Dec. 27.

Monetarily speaking, it's a big deal for the former fourth-round pick. It means eight more days of collecting his NHL salary -- which for the season is $525,000 (all terms US). That's a little better than the approximately $50,000 minor league contract he has as a first-year pro.

But for Bass, being with the big club is naturally much more than a cash consideration.

"It's like I keep saying, this is a dream come true to be here," the Owen Sound product said yesterday morning in the visitors dressing room at Philips Arena. "I'm living a dream any kid my age would love to be in."

It appears Bass will not awake from it exhausted. In his first game, Dec. 15 against Atlanta, he saw 7:15 of ice time. In his second, he had just two shifts totaling 1:02.

Obviously, he's not about to complain.

"Two shifts are better than no shifts," said Bass.

"I'm here. Just practising with the guys is making me better. If Mr. (John) Paddock wants me to play zero shifts or two shifts, I'll do what I can in those two shifts. It's the only thing I can control.

"Every kid that comes up here has to start somewhere."

Of course, the extra money is nice, too.

As happy and as excited as they have to be for him, those on Bass' Christmas shopping list must be expecting a better-quality gift than they were scheduled to get before the middle of the month.

"I think so," Bass said, breaking into a big smile to go along with his wide eyes. "For some reason, my mom's been calling me a lot lately."

Might also have something to do with the joy she gets from hearing her boy on top of the world.

STARTS AND STOPS: A proud and confident man, Dany Heatley also knows when he's beaten. When it comes to scoring goals, Heatley admits he plays second fiddle to Ilya Kovalchuk. "Yes," the Senators sniper said yesterday morning when asked if the Thrashers star is a better scorer than him. "I don't think there's a better shooter in the game. The two goals against us (Dec. 15), one is in the top elbow of the net, the other is right off the post, one-time. Those are two big league shots. There's a reason he has 27 (goals) this year." Former teammates who broke into the league in 2001, Heatley entered last night with 200 goals in 386 games while Kovalchuk had 229 through 420 games. Kovalchuk has done significant damage against Ottawa, scoring 18 goals in his first 22 career games versus the Senators. "I've never played with anybody who can shoot the puck like he can," Mark Recchi, an NHLer since 1988, said in speaking specifically of his new linemate's wrister. Added Heatley: "I've had a chance to see him early on, every day. He does some crazy things in practice. You see some nice goals, but he does some unbelievable things in practice. He's got a short, real stiff stick, and he just lets it go. Nice curve on it, too, I think." ... Bass figures he's fought "four or five" times as a Baby Sen, and that it's usually in standing up for a teammate. He was in his first as an NHLer last night, a puck-drop after Garnet Exelby took a swipe at Wade Redden. Bass went right after Jim Slater and bloodied the nose of the second-year Thrasher in an entertaining bout ... Tough opening period for Atlanta D Steve McCarthy, who in Tuesday's 6-2 win enjoyed a plus rating for the first time this season. On the same shift he was undressed by Dean McAmmond for what became a good scoring chance, then seconds later took a Nick Foligno shot off the face. At that rate he'd also be minus a job and a few teeth ... Marian Hossa feels no sympathy for old Ottawa friends who are spending far too much of their winter shovelling driveways. "In my three years here it snowed one day," the Thrasher said. "And when I came out after practice, the sun was out and the snow had melted." That sort of stuff a guy should keep to himself.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM: Somebody in the sparse crowd last night didn't think much of Randy Robitaille when he was a Thrasher during the 2003-04 season. "Robitaille sucks," a leather-lung bellowed after Robitaille was given an assist for his nice play on Jason Spezza's opening goal. Later in the first period, when Robitaille lost his balance and crashed into the end boards, the same fan yelled: "That's the Randy I know." ... Just doesn't seem right, seeing Ray Emery being the first player off the ice after a morning skate when he is slated to be that night's backup goalie. "It doesn't bother me at all," coach John Paddock said when asked his opinion on the matter yesterday. "Why would it bother me? You're trying to make something out of nothing. It's no bother to me at all. You guys are trying to stir (crap). He's won four straight games, or three or something. It doesn't bother me." Hmmmm. Guess it doesn't bother the coach ... What I won't miss from this road trip -- listening to Le Droit's "Sleepy Sly" St-Laurent sing Christmas carols. He's like a broken record ... I remember Garry Unger, but have no idea who Jerry Munger is. Nonetheless, I had to enjoy the bottle of Mumm Napa (champagne) and chocolate strawberries that were intended for him but wound up in my room at The Ritz-Carlton. Merry Christmas, Jer.


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