Positioned for battle

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Senators GM Bryan Murray is about to find out how all his off-season work panned out.

After a long summer following their first-round playoff exit in four games, the Senators officially get back to work when they report for physicals at Scotiabank

Place today and hit the ice tomorrow.

Big changes were in order following a season in which the Senators got off to a record-setting start, then fell apart.

While question marks remain, Murray is confident the right moves were made in the summer to make the Senators a Stanley Cup contender again.

Defenceman Wade Redden wasn't brought back as an unrestricted free agent. Restricted free agent Andrej Meszaros was shipped to the Lightning when a contract couldn't be worked out. Goaltender Ray Emery is now toiling in Russia and tough guy Brian McGrattan landed Phoenix.

DEPTH IS 'REALLY GOOD'

"The depth of the organization is really good. We hope, and we believe, there will be battles for a number of jobs and I think the veteran core is good," Murray said.

"My big project this summer was to make sure we cleaned up the (dressing) room and had great people playing for the organization with good characters and

I feel like we've achieved in that area.

"Obviously, the most important factor is the turnover going to make us competitive and I believe we're going to be very competitive."

Bigger will be better for the Senators this time around with 54 players in camp. Three groups -- each with 10 forwards, six defencemen and two goalies -- begin their work in earnest tomorrow.

With those thoughts in mind, here's a look at where the battles for spots lie in training camp.

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GOALTENDING

Enough with the talk about Ray Emery's antics. He's gone and shouldn't

be blamed for anything else going on with the Senators.

Veteran Martin Gerber is the clear-cut No. 1 goalie heading into camp, while Alex Auld will push for playing time.

"(Gerber's) the No. 1 guy. Much like our defence, I see our goaltending to be very efficient with Alex there to support," said coach Craig Hartsburg.

"We look at it that we've got two guys who can provide us with good goaltending all year."

Gerber has to show he can get the job done consistently. The difference this season is there shouldn't be any distractions.

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The Senators still have plenty of depth up front. Returnees Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly, Shean Donovan, Dean McAmmond and Chris Neil give the club a strong group to count on.

The addition of Jarko Ruutu is going to help, while rugged defenceman Matt Carkner will try to make the team as a forward.

Pushing for jobs will also be prospects Nick Foligno, Jesse Winchester and Cody Bass.

The Senators are especially excited about Winchester. Bass will compete for a spot on the fourth line, while Foligno is in the stage of his development where he needs to push for a spot.

Veterans Brad Isbister and Ryan Shannon each deserve decent looks.

"Our top guys are locked in, but I think our third- and fourth-line guys have got to go out there and establish position-wise where certain guys play. There's a number of guys who will be looking for a spot."

The right side of Spezza and Heatley could be a revolving door. Expect Vermette and Winchester to both get chances there, with Alfredsson playing the power play.

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DEFENCE

With Wade Redden and Andrej Meszaros out of the mix, it's not the star-studded group of previous seasons.

But the Senators remain solid on the blue line with the top four of Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, Jason Smith and Filip Kuba, who should be consistent.

Then it gets interesting.

Christoph Schubert, who has been a double-duty man on the wing/defence for the last two seasons, will get a chance to play on the blue line full-time in camp.

"That doesn't mean anything is written in stone," said Hartsburg.

Ideally, the Senators would like to find a puck-moving defenceman in this group, although GM Murray is willing to make a trade.

Brendan Bell (Phoenix, UFA), Alexandre Picard (deal with Tampa) and Brian Lee are all going to push for playing time with the Senators.

Veteran Luke Richardson is being brought in on a professional tryout and his leadership last season has to mean something.


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