Recent turnaround has been quite the feet for Picard

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

When Alexandre Picard sat across from Senators coach Craig Hartsburg during individual meetings the coach conducted with his players a week ago Sunday, not much was said by the boss.

"It was the first meeting I had like that," said the 23-year-old defenceman.

The first 16 games or so had been inconsistent for the new Senator, reflective of the struggles of the team itself and Hartsburg, the new coach, was looking for answers.

"Hartsy didn't tell me anything. He just asked me what I should do to play better and that got me thinking."

It's an interesting approach by the coach who had either already exhausted his own well of ideas (unlikely) or found a way to spark some inspiration from his players with a little introspection (resourceful).

In Picard's case, anyway, it seems to have worked. In the three games since that meeting, Picard has four assists and the coaches have trusted him enough (some would say they don't have much choice) to play him 21 minutes and 37 seconds against the Rangers in New York, 25:29 against the Canadiens and 21:37 in the win over the Rangers here Saturday.

"I came up with answers. It was real simple. I figured I played my best games when I got the puck and I got my feet moving, got my head up and looked for the good play. When I played bad games, it was because I was standing still. As soon as I got the puck on the tape, I was getting rid of it," he said.

Hartsburg agreed with that take yesterday.

Also helping was the suggestion, apparently made by Picard's partner, Filip Kuba, that they switch sides.

Picard, now a left shot on the left side, dismisses that as the primary reason for his improved play lately.

"It depends what you think. There are a lot of advantages (to playing the off side). I felt on the right side it was hard to pick the puck off the boards on your backhand, but once you did get it, it was easier to slide on the blue line. I could see everything.

"On the regroups on the right side, if you bring the puck from forehand to backhand, you expose it. You have to turn around with it. I can't say I've put a couple of good games together because I moved to the left side. I think it has to do with other things than that."

Hartsburg said Picard's improved play has been more to do with him getting his feet moving.

WAS WITH FLYERS

Hartsburg was an assistant coach in Philly when the Flyers drafted Picard 85th overall in 2003, saw him as an 18-year-old and thought he was a smart player.

"He's getting better. When we got him (in Ottawa), we knew he had a chance to play on our team and he could make progress and he has. He's gotten better as the year has gone on. In the 20 games, there have been times when he hasn't played as well as we would have liked, but he's showed great progress."

Hartsburg, a fine defenceman in his playing days (413 points in 570 career games), was asked yesterday if it mattered to him which side he played.

"It didn't for me, but I know there have been some guys who have struggled playing their off side. I think putting Alex back on left side has certainly helped him. Part of it is he seems to be moving his feet more. Whether that's he's on the right or left side ... when you do play your off side, you seem to stand waiting for the puck rather than moving your feet before you get the puck. I think he's doing a much better job on the left side, his feet are moving when the puck comes to him," he said.


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