Rising to the defence

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

Zdeno Chara. Gone.

Wade Redden. Gone.

Andrej Meszaros. Gone.

The Senators defence barely resembles what it was three years ago.

And with Redden gone via free agency and Meszaros dealt to Tampa, Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov are the only returning regulars who began last season with the Senators.

Veteran Jason Smith, signed as a free agent, will be paired with Filip Kuba, acquired in the Meszaros deal, while Alexandre Picard (also from Tampa) and Brian Lee will team up. Christoph Schubert moves back to forward.

The Senators also have veteran Luke Richardson as part of the mix.

Will the new Ottawa defence take time to gel?

"It can happen quick. The biggest thing is we don't want any of them to try to do anything they're not capable of doing," said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg, one of the NHL's top power-play defencemen during his 10-year career. "If you start to ask people to do things that are out of their skill set or their mindset, that's when you run into problems.

"As a group, they all should be able to defend and we should be really strong defensively. As for the transition part, we're not asking them to make breakaway passes every time they touch the puck. We want to make sure the puck is moving and it's getting our forwards into a position where they can do something with it. Hopefully, it won't take long. There's always some time with new partners.

"We're not going to rely on one pair to carry us. It's going to be six guys every night that are asked to do it."

The Senators tried to replace Redden, who signed with the Rangers, in the off-season. But GM Bryan Murray couldn't sign one of Brian Campbell (Chicago), Ron Hainsey (Atlanta), Mark Streit (Islanders) or Michal Rozsival (Rangers) as a free agent.

Then the plan changed again when Meszaros informed the Senators he was about to sign an offer sheet with the Lightning, which prompted the deal that saw Kuba and Picard land in Ottawa.

"I don't think there's any question that we'll be good defensively," said Murray. "I believe that they'll be a hard group to play against simply because if teams are going to be around the front of the net, players are going to have to pay a price.

"I'm hoping there are a couple of guys who can play the puck-moving role. That's probably the most difficult role to fill. You want a guy that's creative with the puck and can score from the blue line."


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