'Three lives ago' for Harts

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Returning to his NHL coaching roots carries no special significance for Craig Hartsburg.

"That was like three lives ago," laughed Hartsburg, who's been the bench boss of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Soo Greyhounds and now the Senators since his three-season tenure (104-102-4) here from 1995-98. "I actually love Chicago. It's a great city.

"It was interesting working there. My first year there we had a really good team. Lost to Colorado in a great series. Colorado went on to win the Stanley Cup. After that, we just kept losing players, never really added a lot.

"It's good to see that their franchise is rebounding. It's important for the league that city has a good strong franchise. They had to pay a big price, obviously, to get those young players, but they're top players.

"I guess they're drawing well and it's good to see it back."

The first Ottawa-Chicago game at the United Center did not unfold the way Hartsburg would have liked. In 1995, the Senators ended a 14-game skid by beating Hartsburg's Hawks, who wound up winning 22 more games than Ottawa that season.

No doubt, Chicago players were looking past the hapless Senators that night. Surely, their heads were not in the right place for the game.

Sort of like the problem Hartsburg sees occasionally with today's Senators.

"Every night we're playing a team we probably can beat," Hartsburg said the morning after a slow start cost the Senators a possible point in a 4-3 OT loss to the Panthers. "And if we're not ready to play the right way, we'll probably lose to anybody.

"It's happened before this year, it's happened many times. When we lose we don't seem to have that same focus. I think it starts to come down to individual players not being prepared to play.

"We're a team that we think can be a good team. But mentally we don't allow ourselves that chance some nights to be in the game early. It's hurt us too many times."

If going from a Hockey Night in Canada game against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the reast of the defending conference-champion Penguins to a game against a faceless, below-.500 Panthers team missing seven regulars was a letdown for the Senators, they're about to be brought back up in a hurry.

They face Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Brian Campbell and Martin Havlat tonight, then Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals Friday.

If they're not ready, they'll be limping home with sore rear ends.

Fisher's on target

Mike Fisher was "en fuego" at practice, picking corners left and right behind both Alex Auld and Martin Gerber. "I had a good shooter," Fisher said with a smile. His shooter betrayed him Monday, when all nine pucks he fired on the Florida net hit goalie Craig Anderson. The heartbreaker was a spectacular save Anderson made off him in overtime. "I didn't get it up," said Fisher. "It's frustrating, especially when the game is on the line and you have some opportunities."

Dono in the ditch

Shean Donovan's to-do list between practice and takeoff to Chicago had one more chore on it. "Getting my truck out of the ditch," the winger said while hustling to leave Scotiabank Place. "I thought I was on the road." Asked a few hours later if he had been towed from out of the dilemma, Donovan shook his head and smiled. "They haven't been by yet," he said. "Oh well, I'll just pick it up in the summer." Donovan should have grabbed a lift with neighbour Daniel Alfredsson and his four-wheel drive.


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