Say this for the Senators: They are nothing if not polite to their guests.
In back-to-back games at Scotiabank Place last Friday and Saturday, they took a grand total of two minor penalties. They stayed clear of the box altogether in a 6-3 win over the Coyotes, then were a pair of Dany Heatley minors shy of turning the same trick 24 hours later against the Bruins.
The goody-two skates act is a trend the Senators have maintained through the schedule's first five games.
Only the Red Wings have spent less time in the sin bin this season than Ottawa, which has served an average of 9.2 penalty minutes per game. Leading the category is the Sabres (27.2 minutes per game) but, at 4-0-1 heading into last night's play, they haven't exactly been made to pay for their sins.
Chris Neil, the Senators' all-time PIMs leader, disagrees that teams might be starting to think they're in for an easy night physically when they drop by The Bank.
He also says the lack of infractions is not indicative of the team playing soft.
"We're more positionally sound," Neil said. "We're not reaching and hooking and stuff. Those are a lot of the penalties you get. If you go out and play a hard-nosed game with hits and stuff, they aren't going to call those. I think there was some good hits (in a zero penalty game against Phoenix on Friday), it's just that we weren't fishing for the puck."
The Senators, Red Wings and Blues are the only teams yet to record a major.
Neil fought a couple of times in the pre-season, but nobody on the team has dropped the gloves yet in a game that counts.
"We have a bunch of guys who will go out and stick up for each other. It's not just me," maintained Neil. "That's what it takes to win hockey games and that's what we're all about in here."
IN AND OUT
D Luke Richardson could make his 2008-09 debut tonight. The 39-year-old Senators blueliner has been worked into the rotation during practices and has looked good. "We're always talking about that," coach Craig Hartsburg said when asked if Richardson was going to get into a game. "Luke's been a good pro, it's still early, but he'll get a chance to play. Maybe (tonight), maybe some time in the next week or so." If Richardson is in, expect that he'll be replacing Brian Lee. The former first-rounder hasn't played as well as he did when he was recalled from Binghamton to play the last six games and playoffs last season. Alexandre Picard could also come out in favour of Richardson ... The other lineup move to watch today will be at forward. Christoph Schubert is expected to return to action after spending the last two games as a healthy scratch. Shean Donovan and Neil are the most likely candidates to sit out.
FISHING FOR A POINT
Sliding him between Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson should help get Mike Fisher his first goal or assist or both. In the three games he has played, Fisher has yet to make a scratch on the scoresheet. "What I see in Mike Fisher is a guy that plays in kind of a straight line, power forward type game as a centre ice man," said Hartsburg. "He gets to pucks first, finish checks, gets to the net, take pucks to the net and be good defensively. If he does that with those other two guys, it'll be a good line." Asked if Fisher has done what's been asked of him, Hartsburg replied: "I don't ever question Mike's effort. I've seen a great amount of effort. I think his game isn't there yet because he has missed most of training camp. But I see a guy that's worked extremely hard and plays with a great deal of passion." Fisher said the groin problem that he fought through is behind him. "I feel like I'm just trying to get a little better, get comfortable," he said. "I know it's going to come. I expect to be much better."
THIS AND THAT
Senators players were asked their thoughts about a newspaper report yesterday suggesting the possibility of a second NHL team in Toronto. "I definitely think the area can support another team. There's no question," said Fisher. "They have a lot of fan support, a lot of people. Everyone in that area loves hockey, so I'm sure it'll go over well." Said Alfredsson: "(It's good) to have franchises in Canada, where the real passion is for the game. I can see it being tough maybe to have two teams in the same city, but if they think it might work, why not?" When asked if he would hate another Toronto team as much as he hates the Leafs, Alfredsson replied with a laugh: "I don't hate the Leafs. I dislike them." ... Tonight's game marks the first head-to-head meeting of the two finalists for the Senators' coaching job last summer, Hartsburg and Peter DeBoer. "He's a really good coach," Hartsburg said yesterday of his Florida counterpart, who left his coach and GM job with the Kitchener Rangers when he was hired by Jacques Martin to guide the Panthers -- and not long after being interviewed in Barbados by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. "He's a good friend of mine. I've got a lot of respect for how his teams play."