Shooting blanks, losing ground

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

As it turns out, the Senators' best chance in Monday's shootout might have rested with a defenceman who had just been promoted from the AHL.

Not Dany Heatley or Daniel Alfredsson, but a guy who has just one goal and 51 shots in 49 career NHL games.

"Brendan Bell is 13-of-15 in the American League," coach Craig Hartsburg informed reporters after yesterday's team meeting at Scotiabank Place. "He's 3-for-3 this year. He was on our list."

Not high enough, apparently.

"I wasn't going to be the one to say it," Bell, who was playing his first game as a Senator, replied when asked about his showdown success yesterday. "I mentioned it to Chris Phillips and he passed the word on, but it was a little too late. It's something that I'd like to add, something I enjoy doing."

When asked if he has a "secret move," Bell laughed.

"Yeah, it's not going to be a secret for very much longer," he said. "There's pretty much one move, and it seems to work. You'll see. I'm not telling until it comes out. YouTube it."

All fun and kidding aside, the Senators are absolutely brutal in shootouts. They are now 0-2 this season and 7-19 in the tie-breaking procedure since it was implemented for regular-season games before the 2005-06 campaign. By comparison, the New York Rangers improved to 28-17 in shootouts after converting just one opportunity while Jason Spezza, Jarkko Ruutu and Antoine Vermette were denied by Blueshirts 'tender Henrik Lundqvist.

The inadequacy is not to be taken lightly. Points blown in shootouts will loom large if the Senators wind up in a dogfight for a playoff spot.

Hartsburg had legitimate reasons for his choices Monday.

The career numbers of Senators in shootouts, according to the NHL's website, are as follows:

- Ruutu: 14 tries, seven goals, 50% rate of success.

- Spezza: 13 tries, five goals, 38.5%.

- Dean McAmmond: 15 tries, four goals, 26.7%.

- Vermette: 19 tries, five goals, 26.3%.

- Alfredsson: 18 tries, four goals, 22.2%.

- Mike Fisher: Nine tries, two goals, 22.2%.

- Heatley: 17 tries, three goals, 17.6%.

- Nick Foligno: One try, no goals.

- Filip Kuba: Three tries, no goals.

Alfredsson was fourth in line Monday night.

"To go with the guys we did was right," said Alfredsson.

In theory, Heatley should be used in every shootout. He is the only Senator to ever hit the 50-goal plateau, and he has done it twice. Why has he struggled in shootouts?

"No particular reason," replied Heatley. "I think I'm pretty decent on breakaways, just haven't found a way to score on the shootouts."

Ruutu said shootout success is partly about confidence. "I think it's how you prepare," he said. "You're not going to score every time. Some guys are real confident about them. Other guys just don't feel it. I think it's just how you approach it."


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