Murray's chance to talk trade

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

Trade winds started blowing in the Windy City.

While GMs gathered in Chicago yesterday to discuss things like officiating and rule changes, it was their first chance of the season to meet face-to-face -- and see where they stand in terms of making deals.

Senators GM Bryan Murray didn't go with a shopping list, but his No. 1 priority is a puck-moving defenceman.

The Canucks' Mattias Ohlund, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, could be on the Senators' radar.

Murray may also have to go shopping for a goalie with Martin Gerber struggling. Options are limited, however.

Even the much-maligned Nikolai Khabibulin isn't being shopped by the Blackhawks because he's playing better than pricey signing Cristobal Huet ($22.4 million over four years). Khabibulin is making $6.75 million this season.

"There are a lot of teams looking for a help in a lot of areas. The Senators aren't alone if they want help on defence because a lot of teams are looking and there really aren't many goaltending options available," said a league executive.

Teams have traditionally waited until the 20-game mark to make changes, but with the salary cap, there is increased pressure to get teams back on track quickly, especially with playoff races expected to be strong in both conferences.

Meantime, the Senators are looking to turn it around themselves. Coach Craig Hartsburg said the club has shown promising signs.

"It's frustrating because we're teasing ourselves sometimes when we play so well and then we've gotten away from it," said Hartsburg. "(Against Florida) I saw some really good signs. I hope that's not teasing anybody. I hope we build on that."

LEAVE ON HIGH NOTE

The Senators won't have a winning record on this five-game homestand, so they're at least hoping to close it out on a positive note. With just one win in four games, a victory tonight vs. the Ducks is all the more important before the Battle of Ontario resumes tomorrow in Toronto. Jason Spezza says it's "unfortunate" the Senators haven't won more. "We've made a lot of changes structurally and how we're playing," he said. "There's different combos and different things and it's unfortunate we haven't won as many games here as we would like, but hopefully it's for the greater good and that we learn. Hopefully, we become a better team towards the end of the year. We've always been a pretty good road team, so (the losing homestand) shouldn't affect us too much." The changes include defensive pairings tried out in the Florida game: Youngster Alex Picard with Filip Kuba and Jason Smith with Luke Richardson. Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov remain together. Kuba and Picard played together in Tampa late last season.

SCENE AND HEARD

Captain Daniel Alfredsson left the ice 14 minutes into practice yesterday because of a sore quad muscle and D Chris Phillips (sore foot) wasn't on the ice. Don't worry, Hartsburg said both will play tonight ... It's the first time the Ducks have returned to Ottawa since the 2007 Stanley Cup final, but that doesn't mean much to the Senators. "It's a long time ago. We're in a situation where we're trying to right our ship and I'm sure they're not happy either (with a 2-5 record)," said Spezza. "Both teams could probably care less about what happened two years ago and everybody is probably worried about the future." ... Hartsburg elaborated on how the Senators are "teasing" themselves. "We play so well, and then ... the first two games against Pittsburgh we had that identity and now we've got away from it. Maybe playing a tough team (the Ducks) is exactly what we need."


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