Lucky Winnie hits jackpot with Sens

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Ah, there's nothing quite like the look on the face of a young child first thing Christmas morning, is there?

Oh wait, yes there is -- it's the look on Jesse Winchester's face at Scotiabank Place these days.

Can you blame the guy for being excited?

Somebody is reaching out to hand him a winning lottery ticket. He's the envy of 400 NHLers, if not thousands of other hockey players around the world. He's getting a chance to skate on a line with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, and he's embracing it.

"I don't understand exactly why I was given the shot I have," the 25-year-old fresh out of Colgate University said through an ever-present grin yesterday. "I can make plays and I guess they need a guy who can do that. It might take some time for me at this level, to be totally comfortable, but (Spezza and Heatley) are making it real easy for me to develop confidence right now. They're teaching me every shift, on the bench. I'm just trying to take it all in and hopefully become a better player."

Never mind that his primary responsibility on such a line would be as the "high" man in the attacking zone, should he stay with Spezza and Heatley much longer, Winchester will no doubt be the hockey pool player's dark- horse pick of the year.

Scoring his first goal -- a game winner to boot -- in pre-season play Wednesday only unveils him a little more to the casual observers.

"It's always nice to get on the scoreboard, to give him a little confidence, but I told him before the first game if he doesn't get a goal all pre-season it doesn't matter, as long as we're doing the right things and starting to find each other, on the ice," said Spezza. "The goals and assists will come. I don't think he needs to be judged on that."

Winchester thinks he's handling the pressure well, based on the fact he isn't feeling any pressure.

"It's been an amazing couple of weeks," he said. "I'm just trying to enjoy it, make the most of it. Have some fun. It's a game that I've always played.

"My buddies at school ... obviously I'm still pretty close with them ... they've been texting me and calling me, sending me messages on the Internet. They see the highlights and stuff like that, they're just thrilled. It's nice to have so much support. That kind of makes you enjoy the moment all the more."

One of those friends, his best buddy, is Tyler Burton. Winchester and Burton have been linemates the past three years at Colgate.

"Unbelievable guy, most goals in the whole league (last year)," Winchester said of his former centre.

Asked what Burton and Spezza have in common, he laughed.

"They're both pretty easy-going guys," said Winchester. "And fun to golf with."

Meanwhile, if Winchester is going to play with a "Spetz" and a "Heater," he's going to need a nickname. He says he currently goes by "Winch, Winnie, Winner ... Whatever."

Cody Bass calls him "Bear," after Winnie the Pooh.

"He's Winnie right now," said Spezza. "But we'll figure something out. It'll be right out of left field, probably. Something that makes no sense to anybody."

How about Lucky? Because playing on the line he is right now, Winchester is just that.

And he knows it.

IN THE CREASE

Martin Gerber will get a break as Alex Auld is slated to spend the entire game in goal for the Senators tonight.

"He played great (in New York) the other night," coach Craig Hartsburg said of Auld's Senators debut Monday. "For both of them, consistency will be a big thing. Any time you go in and you're the so called back up, you want him to give you a chance to win. That's what we got from him the other night." Asked about the lone shot to beat Gerber in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Philadelphia, Hartsburg snickered at the Darroll Powe slap shot from the top of the left-wing circle. "I think Martin would like to have it back," he said. "Maybe it went off our defenceman's stick as well, but I think he would like to have it back. But we're not going to dwell on it right now." While D Brendan Bell was faulted for the giveaway, Gerber yesterday took the blame. "I should have gone out and played (the puck) in the first place, instead of making Bellsie come back to get it," he said. "I don't know if (the shot) hit something or not ... I felt I should have had it." ... Still trying to shake off a groin problem, C Mike Fisher will not make the trip to Montreal. Hartsburg said that Fisher is working out off the ice and that "there's a good chance he'll skate" this morning ... D Alexandre Picard (groin) practised yesterday, but will not make the trip to Montreal. He could be in the lineup when the teams return to SBP for a game tomorrow.


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