Sens of frustration

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Craig Hartsburg fumed in front of a video monitor for most of Sunday after the Senators' loss to the Boston Bruins the night before.

The Senators coach rattled some cages and shook up his lines for last night's game against the Florida Panthers, but the hoped-for infusion of energy was quickly dissipated by more listless play, a lack of purpose in their own zone and goaltending by Martin Gerber which had the Senators' faithful giving him a mock cheer.

All that and the game was barely seven minutes old, the Panthers up 2-0.

The Senators can be characterized as a work in progress, and the coach, while not happy with the start, saw some progress in their work.

"In the second and third periods, I saw the team we want to be," said Hartsburg, whose club outshot the Panthers 39-10 over the last two periods in the 3-1 loss. "I saw a desperate, hungry team that won a lot of battles in the second and third periods. Just because I talk or bark about work one day, this thing is not going to turn around.

"We lost the game because we didn't start the right way."

Saturday night's loss came at the hands of the Bruins, "a team that will expose your weaknesses if they play their best game," said Hartsburg. But this was the Panthers, a young, pretty much inexperienced bunch that jumped all over what the Senators gave them.

Six games into the season now and several trends are beginning to emerge. Young defenceman Brian Lee showed himself not ready to play a regular role at this level right now. The 20-year-old will now get a chance to play a much greater role in the AHL with Binghamton, getting more than the 13 minutes a night he was getting here.

The question now is how to help young defenceman Alexandre Picard? His giveaway before the game was five minutes old on a soft, cross-ice effort in his own zone, right onto the stick of Florida's Rostislav Olesz, resulted in the game's first goal. Veteran Luke Richardson played with Picard in place of Lee and the 39-year-old, playing his 1,416th game in the NHL, could be the partner to help Picard. Put it this way: Richardson was playing in the NHL just after Lee was born. Richardson can be like another coach on the bench for Picard at this point.

PIZZA LINE REUNITED

The Senators allowed the Panthers to take control of this game early because one of the big question marks about this Ottawa team, its ability to move the puck crisply out of its own zone, was painfully evident. It was summed up in Picard's giveaway, but was also evident on several other occasions.

Up front, with his team down 3-1 at the halfway point of the game, Hartsburg rolled out a bunch of different combinations. The Pizza Line was reunited for a stretch, then Mike Fisher was reinserted between Dany Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson (who, 12 days removed from knee surgery, was the Senators' best player last night).

Fisher, bogged down by a groin injury through camp, had the most jump and energy he's had this young season, but little to show for the effort.

Hartsburg put struggling Antoine Vermette out with Jason Spezza (who was having the best game Hartsburg said he's seen him play last night) and rookie Jesse Winchester in the third. At least Vermette got chances last night.

"We want to be a hard-working team. At the end of last year, we were not that kind of team," said forward Chris Kelly. "It's going to take time to get away from those bad habits."

As for Gerber, he might have been unlucky on Olesz's opener, which trickled underneath him from a scrum before the game was five minutes old, but the rising shot to the far corner by Florida's Nathan Horton from the left-wing circle less than two minutes later is a goal we've seen before this year (check Johan Franzen, Detroit).

Hartsburg had already announced earlier this week Alex Auld would get the start tomorrow night against the Anaheim Ducks. Auld played an almost error-free game in his only start, a win in the second game of the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In the early going tomorrow night against the Ducks, it looks like the Senators will need no less than the same.


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