Sparring school pays off for Winchester

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

The lessons came in handy for Jesse Winchester.

While he'll never be known as a heavyweight, a few weeks ago at practice, the Senators winger decided he'd better get some tips on dropping the gloves from Chris Neil. Winchester was lucky he took the time to go to school.

After hitting Atlanta's Eric Boulton early in Wednesday's 5-1 victory, Winchester was a wanted man. Not long after his first NHL fight with Jim Slater in the first period, Winchester tangled with Nathan Oystrick in the second.

"They weren't really two great fights," Winchester said with a smile. "I lost my balance in the first one and the second one I was kind of surprised by it. But it was nice to get the first one under the belt and it was pretty cool. It's welcome, that's for sure. I'm not one to shy away."

Winchester, who has limited fighting experience from Cornwall of the CJHL and wore a cage at Colgate University, said he must play physical.

"I was hitting guys a lot (Wednesday) night and I guess I got under their skin a little bit," he said. "You want them to know who you are. If it ends up with a tussle once in a while, then that's part of it."

BELL'S DIALLED IN

Brendan Bell is determined to make the most of his second chance. The former 67's captain and Ottawa native is starting to look right at home on the Senators' blue line. But just because he's coming off a two-point performance, that doesn't mean he's comfortable.

"I've had some ups and downs in my short career. You have to have the right attitude and go and be as good as you can," said Bell, who was sent to Binghamton at the end of training camp.

Since his callup Nov. 16, Bell has been solid at both ends of the ice.

"He's not just a first-year player that got called up. He's played in the league and he understands what it's all about," said coach Craig Hartsburg. "When he's skating, moving the puck and trying to be part of the offence, that's when he's at his best. He just needs to continue."

Bell is well aware of all the talk of trading for a puck-moving defenceman -- a role GM Bryan Murray hopes somebody on the roster can fill.

"If I can contribute offensively, that will help," said Bell. "That puck-moving thing is in front of everybody's minds."

PENALTY KILL SAVES DAYS

A bright spot all season, the Senators' penalty killing is ranked No. 3 in the NHL (behind the Rangers and Wild) after shutting out the Thrashers on six chances. The 87.6% penalty-kill ratio is impressive, especially for a sub-.500 club. "It's been a strength for us and thank goodness," said Hartsburg.

SENS INJURY HITS

D Alex Picard wasn't on the ice with the club yesterday and is doubtful for tomorrow's game. He is still bothered by a wrist injury suffered a week ago Thursday against the Maple Leafs. He planned to suit up against the Thrashers, but woke up sore. "All the shooting and the passing caused a setback," said Picard ... C Dean McAmmond (flu) also wasn't on the ice for practice, but did skate with Picard.


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