Sens flexed muscles

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

As Senators assistant coach Greg Carvel left Scotiabank Place Saturday night, he said good night with a small smile on his face.

"We're better coaches with 11 and 15 in the lineup," he said.

Everybody is better in the Senators' world with 11 (captain Daniel Alfredsson) and 15 (Dany Heatley) in the lineup. With those two back after injuries and reunited with centre Jason Spezza, the Senators' big three combined for 15 points in the 6-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens and gave a dazzling look again at what this Senators team can be moving forward with a full lineup.

The Senators dominated the Canadiens, who had been nipping at their heels in the battle for the Northeast Division lead and the Eastern Conference championship.

PENS MAKING RUN

Now the Pittsburgh Penguins -- despite missing superstar Sidney Crosby -- are taking a run at the Senators' position. They have closed to within three points (72-69) for the Eastern Conference lead.

The Senators are going to need more performances like Saturday's to protect their position as things crank up now.

Despite the ups and downs of this season for the Senators, it appears they are capable of responding to a challenge when it is put in front of them. Think about that 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings last month or Saturday night's game against the Habs.

"We've had the ability to step up when a good team comes in. It's a good sign," said Heatley, who had a goal and three assists Saturday night and now has three goals and four assists in two games since returning from a shoulder injury. "We'd like to win against those lower-tier teams, too, but it's a great sign we can beat the teams that are hot or top-tier teams."

Heatley liked what he saw from his team against the Habs, starting with the work of goaltender Ray Emery, who won his second straight game and is looking better and better with each game. He'll start tomorrow night against the Buffalo Sabres.

"(Saturday) was a big game, all-round," said Heatley. "They're playing well. But Rayzor was real good and we didn't give them a whole lot. It's a good step. The trick is to keep it going. You're not going to get two or three goals on the first shift every night. The key is playing well defensively. We know we can score. It's a matter of tightening up defensively."

Senators coach John Paddock said he liked the way his team bounced back after losing to the Canadiens Tuesday in Montreal. It was there in the performance, but it was also there in the attitude he saw from his players.

"It's a game with your closest competitor in the standings, our closest geographic competitor and there's always lots of hype and adrenaline in the game," said Paddock. "I was asked on Tuesday if it was a statement game for us. How could it be a statement game for us on Tuesday with our lineup? I understand they were missing (defenceman Roman) Hamrlik and he's a good presence in their own end. (Saturday) night was a statement game as far as we're concerned. (Saturday) night, players put a lot emphasis on the game: 'they want to catch us? Well, try.' "

So, things are good again in the Senators' world.

Emery showing signs of improved play is also encouraging and Paddock credited that to Emery spending time working on the small stuff with goaltending coach Eli Wilson.

"You can't just go into a game and play, you can't just come into practice and work hard for an hour, that doesn't get it back, either. He's working at his game and his game is slowly coming back," said Paddock.

HERE AND THERE

Senators D Anton Volchenkov showed some slick moves in the shootout competition at the Sens Skills competition yesterday. Who knew? "I used him in Binghamton (for the shootout)," said Paddock of their days in the AHL. "Guys like (Denis) Hamel and Spezz, nobody could score. So I used him and he scored a couple. At least once, maybe twice. We weren't a good shootout team." ... Senators C Mike Fisher won the hardest shot competition with a club-record 105 mph shot using D Joe Corvo's stick. Since his main weapon is a snapshot, Fisher said he doesn't normally use a stiff-shafted stick.


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