Time for Sens rally cry

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

About 23 months ago, the Senators used injuries to key players as a crutch.

They didn't whine about them. They cried.

Alas, it was a rally cry.

Minus Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette for a spell around the Christmas holidays, the 2006-07 Senators refused to break. Instead, they went on a victory spree.

"As a team we had a group effort to win games in whatever fashion we could," Dean McAmmond remembered yesterday. "Out of it, we learned how to win, period.

"When those three came back, you guys saw the rest of the story."

The only happier ending would have had them actually beat the Anaheim Ducks in the Stanley Cup final.

Fast forward two years, and the Senators, stumbling as aimlessly as they did in December 2007, have again lost a pair of integral parts. Fisher, it was confirmed yesterday, has a strained right knee ligament that should only keep him on the shelf a couple of weeks.

The timetable for Chris Neil's return isn't as clear.

Neil, who went down Saturday on Long Island, will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee tomorrow to repair some damaged meniscus.

"It's disappointing, but the bottom line is it's early in the season and I'll get it dealt with, and get back healthy," said Neil. "It's one of those things. You're dealt with the cards that are handed to you."

Without Neil, the Senators head into tonight's home game against the Montreal Canadiens missing their enforcer/bodyguard. Summoned from Binghamton yesterday was Cody Bass, who in 16 games with the Baby Sens has one goal, one assist and 37 penalty minutes -- including three fighting majors.

Bass, who played in 21 regular-season games and all four in the playoffs for Ottawa last season, is expected to centre a line with Nick Foligno and either Ilya Zubov or Christoph Schubert. Leaned on for extra minutes now will be regular fourth-liners Shean Donovan and McAmmond.

'NO SECRETS'

"I've got 15 years (experience) ... it's not a matter of giving the kid a shot," said McAmmond, who will centre Jarkko Ruutu and Donovan. "There are no secrets as to what I'm about. I think I'm in a situation here where I'm going to do exactly what I was brought in to do. Play and fill holes and be counted on."

The Senators have lost five straight games, including a shootout at Madison Square Garden in New York Monday and a 4-0 pounding at the hands of the Habs Nov. 11.

"We didn't think we played our best and it's a chance to redeem ourselves against them," said coach Craig Hartsburg, who raved about an improvement in the Senators' last outing. "It's about us really pulling together as a team. It's adversity and we have to deal with it. Our work habits and work ethic have to really step up now where we have to outwork teams."

Montreal has its own problems, winning one of four since that Remembrance Day whitewashing.

Making his fifth straight start and 13th in 15 games for Ottawa will be Alex Auld.

"Alex has gone in there every night and continues to play that solid game with good poise and give us a chance," said Hartsburg. "That's what we need, especially right now."

That, and some history repeating itself.


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