As Cody Bass battles to become an NHL regular, he has plenty of inspiration.
It comes in the form of his mother, Debbie.
"She's a fighter," Bass said yesterday. "She's tougher than me."
And that's pretty tough.
Over the Christmas season, Debbie, 47, who has health issues that include a chronic lung disease and diabetes, suffered a heart attack that wasn't her first. She's been in an Owen Sound hospital for a week now, but she's expected to be released today or tomorrow.
That's a sigh of relief for her only boy.
Bass, who turns 21 Monday, was first recalled by the Senators on Dec. 15 as an injury replacement for Mike Fisher. He impressed the coaches with a limited number of shifts, and was kept over the roster freeze period that ended Dec. 28. The Senators formally returned him to Binghamton at that point. What they actually did was have a limo drive him through a snowstorm to be with his mom.
The drive, which is normally a little more than six hours, took 18 round-trip.
"It was good until we hit Shelburne, so the first 5 1/2 hours was fine," said Bass, "and then it just started storming. The snow drifts were horrible, the road was all ice, and I guess on the way back for (the driver), it was even worse. It took 10 hours. That's terrible. I felt so sorry for him."
Bass, meanwhile, has had to focus on keeping himself ready to play while his mind wanders to the well-being of a parent that raised him and his two sisters. In between all that, he thinks about how lucky he is to be part of a good organization.
'DOING A LOT BETTER'
"Mentally it's tough," said Bass, a hard worker who finishes his checks and isn't against dropping the gloves. "What Ottawa did, letting me go home for a couple of days ... what (owner) Mr. (Eugene) Melnyk did for me ... I surprised her when I showed up. She couldn't ask for anything more. I went home for a couple of days, helped support her. She's the one that said, 'go back, this is both of our dreams, for you to be here.'
"The day I left, she was doing a lot better. She has her ups and downs, but she was doing better."
No doubt inspired by a son she inspires.
MAD MARTIN: A period and then some had gone by since he had been pulled after giving up three goals on eight shots, but when G Martin Gerber was captured by the TV camera Tuesday, he still looked like he was going to rise from his seat on the end of the bench and strangle somebody. "I wasn't happy with my play at all," Gerber said yesterday about his seven-minute workday in Washington. "The whole thing. We went out there and, there were things we said we weren't going to do ... there were just a couple of breakdowns there ... I was just disappointed with the situation. To give up three goals that quick, it's just not good. Everybody has to look at themselves, to do their job better. I have to do my job better, and that's all I'm worried about right now." When told that coach John Paddock replaced him in part to shake up the team and try to halt the Caps' momentum, Gerber responded: "I've never really seen that work out. Seriously. I don't think I've ever won a game like that."
THIS AND THAT: Not only was G Ray Emery one of just a handful of players who participated in yesterday's optional skate, but once again he was first on the ice. What's more, he drove to the rink not in a Hummer or Lamborghini, but a snowmobile. "I was kind of nervous about the roads, (wondering) if they plowed them really well," said Emery, wearing a stylish (naturally) Ski-Doo suit. "It's not too good on the pavement there, but it was all right." ... Of the team's performance in back-to-backers against the Caps, Emery said: "Definitely, we're not happy with the last couple of games. I'm not saying that team didn't play well or isn't a challenge, but all the boys are disappointed, knowing that if we had played, we could've and should've won those games." ... C Jason Spezza did a little driveway shovelling when he returned home from the dismal loss in Washington. "Releasing a little anger," he said. "My girlfriend thought I was grumpy. She told me to take the garbage out for an hour."