Wing and a prayer

Jesse Winchester is getting a chance to play on the Sens' top line. (Sun Media/Tony Caldwell)

Jesse Winchester is getting a chance to play on the Sens' top line. (Sun Media/Tony Caldwell)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:27 PM ET

Jesse Winchester could have some big skates to fill.

With captain Daniel Alfredsson separated from Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, Winchester, a 24-year-old rookie winger, was lined up alongside the dynamic duo yesterday at Scotiabank Place.

While a reporter joked Spezza now has a sniper on his left side and a rifle on the right, Winchester will need a strong training camp to stick with the Senators.

"I'm just going to try to focus on the things that I do well," said Winchester, a Long Sault native who was signed as an unrestricted free agent from Colgate University.

"Hopefully that's going to help me crack the lineup. I'm a hard worker and hopefully I can feed off that and we can feed off each other.

"If I got a chance to play with (Spezza and Heatley), that would be pretty cool. It was an eye opener. But it's still early in camp and no team has been made yet."

While Craig Hartsburg could have played it safe and left his big line intact, the Senators coach is determined to spread around the offence.

ALFIE WITH KELLY

Alfredsson skated alongside Chris Kelly and Nick Foligno, while Mike Fisher centred Antoine Vermette and Chris Neil. The fourth line was Cody Bass with Shean Donovan and Jarkko Ruutu.

Hartsburg, who has split 54 players into three groups, said he will use some of the combinations during Saturday's exhibition opener against the New York Rangers.

"Don't read anything into it," said Hartsburg with a smile. "We wanted to spread some players around, we wanted to put some of the young players in situations where they're playing with good players.

"Once we start playing games, I would guess you will see some of the lines we had (yesterday).

"We'd like to (have more balance), but we're going to have to see how it all works out. There are some unknowns yet, but as training camp goes we'd like to have three lines that can contribute. Some lines aren't going to score as much as others, but they should be able to be responsible and create offence."

Spezza and Heatley are accustomed to changes on their right side. They've been together for three seasons -- since Heatley came to Ottawa in a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers -- and they've had 11 different linemates.

So, what's expected of a guy like Winchester?

"He's got to be able to play against top guys," said Spezza. "He can't be making too many mistakes. It's more puck possession, he's got to be able to hang onto the puck, cycle the puck and make the little plays. Our game is working hard away from the puck, trying to find that little hole and trying to get open.

"When you do get it, you've got to break to (an opening) and you need a guy who can get you the puck. We've just got to be opportunistic."


Videos

Photos