New season, new attitude suits Neil fine

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

It could be a change for the better for Chris Neil.

Last year under former Senators coach John Paddock, he had to fight for ice time. As he prepares for his eighth year in an Ottawa uniform, he's hopeful he can get back to being a regular contributor this season.

While Neil wasn't completely sure what his role was when Paddock took over last fall, he has talked with new coach Craig Hartsburg and Neil is looking forward to having a strong season.

"He's come in with good attitude. He's put the past behind and he wants us to look forward," said Neil yesterday during a break in day two in camp. "He demands a lot. He wants guys to work hard. The players who have been around, that's what we want.

DEMAND MORE

"If you're a checker out there, he's going to demand more from you because he wants you to score a bit."

Neil admitted he had a tough time when Paddock took over from GM/coach Bryan Murray because his ice time slipped.

"At the start of (last) year, it was definitely difficult for me. You read into some stuff: (Paddock) went with two or two-and-a-half lines and it caught up to us," said Neil. "I think (Hartsburg) will use all four lines. We've got a good group here so that we can roll four lines.

"He's trying to move (Daniel Alfredsson) around to get some secondary scoring and that will be a key," he said.

"If you get four lines rolling, you keep your top guys fresh. If they're out there playing 18 minutes, instead of 22 or 23 (minutes), they're going to be fresher."

Neil said he had difficulty defining his role and admitted he had a difference of opinion with Paddock about the role he should play.

"It was frustrating because you didn't know what to expect at the start of the year," said Neil. "You go from being under a coach like Bryan Murray where I strived and he helped me establish myself in the NHL.

"When you get a new coach, he has his guys that he likes and at the start of the year I didn't really feel like I was one of those guys. (Paddock) was a good coach, he saw his hockey very well and he got across to some guys. It's tough when you have an opinion and he has an opinion."

There is a belief with tough-guy Brian McGrattan shipped to Phoenix in the off-season, Neil might be required to fight more this season.

CHARACTER AND GRIT

Hartsburg said he didn't see all of Ottawa's games last year, but doesn't think that's going to be the case.

"(Neil) is a guy who has always provided a lot of character and a lot of grit," said Hartsburg. "We expect that from Chris. We think that he can be a player, if he keeps the game simple, is strong on the forecheck and on the puck, and puts pucks on the net, he can be tough to play against.

"To me, that's who he is as a player. Chris Neil just needs to be that hard, in-your-face guy that everybody hates to play against.

"If he does that, he'll have a big impact," Hartsburg said.

OFF THE GLASS

Hartsburg said the club will start making cuts on the weekend. There are 54 players in camp at this point ... If you were hoping to see former Senators D Wade Redden in a Rangers uniform tomorrow night, forget it. He won't be in the lineup against Ottawa at Scotiabank Place for the pre-season opener.


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