Redden, Neil mix it up, then make up

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

SUNRISE, FLA. -- Another practice, another scuffle.

Senators defenceman Wade Redden and winger Chris Neil brought the morning skate to a stop yesterday when they clashed in front of goaltender Martin Gerber.

Redden did something Neil didn't like during a drill, so Neil gave him a shot to the head. Redden dropped his stick and a smiling Mike Fisher intervened and separated the two.

The went their separate directions for a bit, both sneering and exchanging some verbal barbs.

Afterward, in the dressing room, Redden came in and went over to Neil, who was working on one of his sticks.

Redden put his arm around Neil's shoulders and mugged for an imaginary camera as a couple of reporters looked on.

"As you can see, this is not going to get in the way of our friendship," said Redden, jokingly.

Senators goaltender Ray Emery and tough guy Brian McGrattan dropped the gloves in practice a couple of weeks ago (not the first time they've clashed). It's rare to see guys get it on the day of a game.

This skirmish happened in the first morning skate since the players, in meetings with coach John Paddock over the last couple of days, asked for more game-like drills in the morning skate.

"I think that's something you like to see," said Paddock of the flare-up. "In talking to half those guys (Monday) night, they thought they wanted to get just to get a little bit more of a game-like situation going. I tried to slim them down when the schedule is heavy. At their suggestion, they wanted a little more competitive stuff at the day of the game skate. It does get the juices flowing a little bit more, gets the adrenalin flowing a little bit more. If they're doing a good job of making it a game-time situation, that can happen.

"I don't mind it. Rayzor wasn't involved so that's big news for you guys."

The bigger news might be Paddock making a joke.

JACQUES TALK: Musta been something in the air yesterday. Paddock made a joke and so did Jacques Martin! The Panthers coach was receiving congratulations on notching his 500th win, tying him with legendary Montreal coach Toe Blake. "That's pretty good company, eh?" somebody said to Martin. "Maybe I'll get a fedora," cracked Martin (Blake used to wear one behind the Habs bench). Okay, so he's not going to be a scab during the writers' strike for Jay Leno, but for Jacques, that was pretty good. Then he added: "Ah, maybe I'd wear it just on the road. It's pretty hot here."

HEAR AND THERE: The election train is gathering momentum here in the U.S. and Paddock got in the mood yesterday. He's sounding like the manager for the Daniel Alfredsson for the Hart campaign. Paddock said his team' results without Alfredsson show how important he is to the team. "It's unfortunate people get more of a glimpse of the Hart Trophy candidate when he's out than when he's in," said Paddock. "He does everything and he adds a high level of everything. There's more potential to score, there's a little bit more consistent penalty killing, whatever he steps up in the room and says or does, it's all available. When you lose games, it's another indication of where he stands." ... Alfredsson didn't waste much time testing his hip, giving Panthers D Bryan Allen a big hit in the first and little shot after that for good measure.

REVELATIONS: C Shawn Matthias made his home debut last night with the Panthers, another remarkable moment in what has been a whirlwind for the 19-year-old. He made the play that led to the gold-medal winning goal for Canada at the world junior championship and went back to the Belleville Bulls. He was playing Guitar Hero 3 at his billet's house when he got the call to join the injury-riddled Panthers. "It's been wild," said Matthias, who scored two goals Saturday in a loss to Washington. He played on a line last night with Olli Jokinen -- who has shifted to the wing to let Matthias play centre -- and Richard Zednik. "It's just awesome," said Matthias.

SPECULATIONS: There are the usual trade rumours swirling around Jokinen here and more talk about a rift between him and Martin. My favourite quote from a Florida Sun-Sentinenl source: "There's no personal hatred," between Martin and Jokinen because "there's not enough communication to create" that situation. That sure sounds like a rift.

THE BUZZ: Senators D Anton Volchenkov had a rough couple of shifts in the first period. He fell heavily into the boards in one corner against Jokinen and then got pasted in the other corner by Zednik. The A-Train shook it off ... If hard work counts for anything, Senators W Dany Heatley will be back sooner than expected from his shoulder injury. He pedalled the stationary bike for a while before going out and skating hard after his teammates were done yesterday morning.

JUST WONDERING: Who counts the fans here? Talk about creative accounting. Wonder if they do tax returns.

TIME OUT: Every bar should have the closed captioning on when you're watching a game. It's entertaining. Like this moment when the camera during the Pittsburgh-Washington game panned to a box with Sidney Crosby sitting beside the Penguins' owner, "Mario 11 emu," according to the captioning.


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