Senators' forward thinking

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

The offensively inept Senators now aim to find out whether, if placed together, two wrongs can make it right.

It's just plain wrong that Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette -- who will start tonight's game against the Thrashers on a line with Shean Donovan -- have combined for only five goals in 22 games. With their skills, they should have 12-15 between them, easy.

With five of the Senators' 10 regulation-time losses by one goal, that could mean more wins. And tonight, the Senators might be looking directly at the backend of the division-leading Bruins rather than squaring off with the Thrashers in the Eastern Conference's quarter-mark version of the Toilet Bowl.

There are numerous other reasons why the Senators find themselves bottom-feeders, but who's to say that with Fisher and Vermette behaving like themselves scoring-wise, this team wouldn't be much closer to first than being worst?

So coach Craig Hartsburg will take Vermette away from Chris Kelly, and Fisher off a line he centred with Jarkko Ruutu and Nick Foligno, and put them together alongside what many believe has been the Senators' most consistent forward this season - everyone's favourite "chummy" -- the forever hard-working Donovan.

"That's probably the one combination we haven't tried yet, Fish and Vermette," said Hartsburg, who in fact paired the veterans in the third period of Saturday's dismal loss on Long Island. "They're good two-way players ... be hard, finish checks and then when they do turn pucks over, create something.

"With Antoine, I think that's the biggest thing. Stop putting pressure on yourself that you have to score. Just go out and play the way that you can. Create the chances and eventually they'll go in for you."

Vermette's frustration boiled over on a drill gone bad in Monday's practice, when he taught his stick a lesson by breaking it over the net. There's a good chance the fact he has just two goals and three assists played a part in the outburst.

Yesterday, I asked Fisher if he's had the urge to express his dissatisfaction over his early season struggles in a similar manner.

SHOULD BEAT ISLES

"No," he said, "but when we lose like the way we did to the Islanders (Saturday), yeah, I felt like that.

"We should beat a team like the Islanders, regardless, especially when they beat us the last couple of times.

"We've got to go in there and play hard, but we didn't. That's the frustrating part, but we can't let it affect the way we're going to go forward and try to build."

After going the first nine games without a point, Fisher is turning around his season. He has three goals and seven points in his last nine games, and he rang a shot off the post in Long Island.

"It's hard not to get frustrated when you get chances and it just doesn't go. I mean that's what we do, right? It's our job to score, and when you're not it can get to you."

With Hartsburg lamenting the team's competitiveness, and the obvious lack of intensity, it might be time remember the words of former Blackhawks coach Orval Tessier line and suggest there's nothing wrong with the Senators that a heart transplant couldn't cure.

Is there enough passion and desire on this team, Mike Fisher?

"You look around the room and how can there not be, with some of the players we have," he said. "Whether it be confidence or whatever ... we've got guys with character that can play hard.

Playing with Donovan again will be Fisher's pleasure.

"I'm excited ... I think he's going to help our line, and with Vermie on there now too, we've got some speed, and I think we can use that."

They're going to have to start moving fast, but Fisher and Vermette can still get back on pace for the seasons expected of them. If they do, the Senators will be in a playoff position.


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