Self-D-estructive

Senators defenceman Christoph Schubert pleads innocence after dumping Leafs captain Mats Sundin on...

Senators defenceman Christoph Schubert pleads innocence after dumping Leafs captain Mats Sundin on Saturday. (SUN MEDIA/Craig Robertson)

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

Senators attending Luke Richardson's Super Bowl get-together would have wanted to keep their backs to the TV while the pre-kickoff hockey game was on.

They'd have also been wise to heed a famous warning from Satchel Paige.

"Never look behind you," the great pitcher said. "Someone may be gaining."

In Ottawa's case, it's the Montreal Canadiens.

Despite blowing a three-goal lead against the Rangers yesterday, the Canadiens -- three points back of Ottawa -- are poised to overtake the Senators for first in the Northeast this week, when the teams meet in Montreal tomorrow and at Scotiabank Place Saturday.

Last season's conference champs have only themselves to blame.

Since their fantastic 15-2 start to the season, the Senators have done their best to help Montreal catch up. They have gone 17-19, playing some pretty miserable hockey in the process, especially on defence.

Ottawa has surrendered 117 goals in those 36 games, not counting those scored in shootouts. The Senators have much bigger issues that Ray Emery being late for practice.

"I'm concerned about our defenceman," coach John Paddock said after practice at the Bell Sensplex, still shaking his head at the four goals allowed the night before vs. the Leafs. "You can't score goals from the goal crease. I mean you can, but you're not supposed to, with regularity.

"They scored four goals from the crease. That's just unbelievable ... We're just not competing. Defencemen just can't let guys stand there. If you're going to take a penalty, take one for removing someone's helmet with a cross-check. That's hockey. Any penalty that saves a goal is a good penalty. Have a little bit of balls to do that.

"I'm disappointed in some players. Especially our back end."

While Chris Phillips battled a 24-hour flu, other blueliners were also stricken.

Richardson and Joe Corvo coughed up pucks. Andrej Meszaros had some sort of enery-zapping or mind-numbing problem, taking three penalties over an 8:19 span in the second.

Wade Redden appeared to be feeling weak, too, nudged off the puck behind the Senators net for the game-winner. Redden has had numerous defensive zone issues of late.

Richardson, however, can be forgiven for a rare turnover that leads to a goal. He was hired at a modest salary to be the team's sixth or seventh defenceman.

MUM ON REDDEN

Against the Leafs, he saw a huge chunk (16:47) of ice time, especially for a 38-year-old facing a whole bunch of young prospects trying to take advantage of the Leafs' injury woes.

Redden is making a team-high $6.5 million this season, and with that money comes a responsibility to play better.

When Paddock was asked about Redden's game, he chose not to discuss it.

"I don't know," he said. "I'm not going to comment on that specifically at all. I'm disappointed in our defencemen's play, and he's one of those guys."

Redden said the defensive woes come down to indecisiveness.

"We're not on the same page," he said. "You see it happening, and that results in breakdowns, in goals against. We've obviously got to be better as a group. Better off all being real aggressive than one guy not being aggressive."

Asked if it is becoming a coaching issue, that something needs to change system-wise, Redden added: "I think we've got to sit down for sure and talk about it. It's not just going to change itself."

As for his own play, Redden chose his words carefully.

"I obviously feel I should be doing more and should probably ... I mean just being aggressive and not worry about making mistakes or stuff like that."

Chris Neil summed up defensive play: "It's not Senators hockey, the way we like to play."


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