Benching angers Robitaille

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

It was a short trip from the outhouse to the penthouse for Randy Robitaille.

Less than 24 hours after being a healthy scratch in Ottawa's 4-2 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday, the Senators forward was skating on the left side of the top line yesterday with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson in the space normally occupied by Dany Heatley.

If coach John Paddock was trying to get a point across to the veteran, it worked.

ZUBOV MAKES DEBUT

Robitaille played the role of spectator in Washington after rookie Ilja Zubov made his NHL debut.

Since Zubov was returned to the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton yesterday, it's expected Robitaille, who hasn't scored since Dec. 5 (a 15-game drought), will return tonight against the Hurricanes at Scotiabank Place.

"I'm angry. I'm upset. That's human nature. You want to play," the Ottawa native said following a 35-minute skate. "When you're not able to play, it's frustrating. Maybe this will get me a little more fired up than usual. I just want to prove some things.

"(Being scratched is) out of my control. All I can control is what I do on the ice. (Paddock and Robitaille) had a quick chat at the pre-game skate and he said he just wanted to give the young guy a chance to play. I didn't ask too many questions. I've been around too long to ask too many questions."

With Heatley sidelined with a shoulder injury for 4-6 weeks, the Senators are looking for somebody to pick up some of the scoring slack.

The Senators don't expect Robitaille to just pick up where Heatley left off, but assistant coach Greg Carvel maintained if the play of some other forwards doesn't improve, they're going to be taking a seat in the press box as well.

"Having Zubov around allowed us to take somebody out of the lineup that we think needs to be playing harder," said Carvel. "(Robitaille) isn't the only guy. There are a couple of guys that are in that same boat. It may happen again.

"We have six games before the all-star break and guys may need a rest to find that battle level up to where it needs to be."

VERMETTE NEXT?

Carvel was diplomatic when it was suggested winger Antoine Vermette is one of the players who needs to pick up their game.

"I'm not going to name names right now. That's not fair to the guys," said Carvel. "We need to speak to those guys behind closed doors, but there are guys who have to be better.

"It's part of the function of this time of the year. You get into that 40-, 50-game stretch in January and guys see a little bit of a break coming up and they lose a little bit of that intensity."

With Heatley out, Carvel indicated the Senators aren't likely to settle with one player on the left side of Spezza and Alfredsson for the next six weeks.

Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Patrick Eaves and Vermette are going to get the chance to play in that spot.

"A lot of it is balance," said Carvel. "Taking Heatley out of the lineup means our offence obviously takes a hit. If we put the best three offensive players on one line, there's not a lot of balance to score in the rest of the lineup. If you put Fisher with Spezza and Alfredsson, then you are kind of throwing all your eggs in one basket. It's only (been two games) without (Heatley) and we've got to find the right combinations to give us good balance."

OFF THE GLASS: Senators owner Eugene Melnyk will be in the house tonight as the club hosts its fourth annual Canadian Forces Appreciation Night. More than 2,600 Canadian Forces members and their families will be on hand for the Carolina game. "The Senators are proud to recognize the Canadian Forces," said Melnyk ... Expect to see G Martin Gerber make the start against the Hurricanes.


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