Harts and soul

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

KITCHENER -- Craig Hartsburg spent all summer preparing for this week.

After being handed the Senators' coaching reins in June, Hartsburg talked to the players at length about what's expected as the club enters a new era.

Now, it's time to turn the talk into action with training camp opening and the regular season beginning in less than three weeks.

"It seems like it's been about two years since I was hired," Hartsburg said with a laugh during a wide-ranging interview yesterday. "It's exciting now. It's just around the corner. We've put a lot of work into getting ready.

"Right away, when I got hired, I tried to make contact with as many players as possible. I didn't get into a lot of things about what we're going to do, but it was more to introduce myself and listen a little bit as well. It would have been very easy for me to say, 'Well, blah, blah, blah, here's what we're going to do.'

"I wanted to hear what they said and then we can move it forward with our first meeting (tomorrow). They'll get a clear picture about what we're going to be about. I didn't want to blow them away with information back in early July. It's about trying to get to know them. We will get right to work on our identity and what we want to be and the things that will be important to our team."

There won't be drastic changes, but the way tasks are completed will be different.

"(The players are) kind of on pins and needles themselves wondering what it's going to be about, but to me we want to make sure people understand that there's going to be an identity and type of game that we want to play," said Hartsburg.

"Everybody is going to be asked to play within that structure. A guy like Jason Spezza, who is a gifted offensive puck handler, there's room for that. Cody Bass and (Shean) Donovan, there's room for them in our structure and a need for both type of players. There's going to be good structure and the team is going to take a lot of pride in the work part of the game. We want a mentality that we can defend and we can attack."

IN WITH THE NEW

While the core remains with Daniel Alfredsson, Spezza, Dany Heatley, Mike Fisher, Chris Neil, Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly, Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov, there are plenty of new faces.

GM Bryan Murray brought in the likes of defencemen Jason Smith, Filip Kuba and Alexandre Picard. Goalie Ray Emery was sent packing and replaced by Alex Auld. Forward Jarkko Ruutu should make an impact, while youngsters Nick Foligno, Bass and Jesse Winchester will push for spots.

"We think have the skill, but now we think we have the ability to play with more character and I don't think you win in any league unless you have that combination," said Hartsburg.

Hartsburg has noticed in his talks with the players that they want a fresh start after being swept in the playoffs.

"They were very disappointed in last year. It's easy for fans and people to point fingers and be critical, but these guys are professional.

"The guys that are left here feel accountable for what happened. They aren't trying to hide from it ... They want to turn to the page. But we can't turn the page until we get on the ice because it's still hanging there."


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