Sens empty on all fronts

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

It's no longer the NHL's Christmas roster freeze that's preventing Senators GM Bryan Murray from swinging a deal.

While Murray is desperately trying to improve the club's sputtering defence, he isn't having much luck finding a trading partner.

With the Senators mired in a 12-game road losing streak after last night's 3-0 loss against the Canucks in Vancouver, sources say Murray has been burning up the phone lines and talking to the other GMs who are here for the world junior championship, but has come up empty so far.

Something is going to have to give. The Senators were 10 points out of playoff spot heading into play last night and owner Eugene Melnyk isn't spending more than $54 million US so his team can miss the post-season.

With several teams looking for a puck-moving defenceman, Murray might not have the pieces to pull off a big club. Ideally, the club would like to move winger Antoine Vermette and defenceman Christoph Schubert, but neither will land Ottawa a top-flight blueliner.

Another issue that affects all teams is the salary cap.

So while someone like the Flyers' Randy Jones will be available once Daniel Briere returns from injury because Philadelphia will be over the cap, the Flyers can't take back salary in a trade and the Senators can't make a trade without dumping some salary.

It hasn't helped that the Senators' blue line is a hurting mess:

* Filip Kuba (groin) made the trip to Western Canada, but didn't suit up in Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Flames on Saturday and wasn't in the lineup vs. the Canucks, either. His status for tomorrow night's game against the Oilers in Edmonton is unknown.

* Shot-blocker Anton Volchenkov hasn't played since smacking into a dasherboard in Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Senators were hoping they'd have him back out West.

Up front, the story isn't much better. Centre Cody Bass suffered a shoulder injury in a fight against Calgary's Eric Nystrom. Bass will be out the rest of the trip and will be re-evaluated when the teams gets home New Year's Eve.

With Jesse Winchester out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, Ilya Zubov played against Vancouver.

Speaking to the media in Vancouver yesterday before the game, Senators coach Craig Hartsburg clearly sounded frustrated after the club blew a 2-0 lead in Calgary.

"The concern right now is ourselves and making sure we play well for 60 minutes," said Hartsburg. "I thought (Saturday) we played strong early and as the game went on we got away from some of that structure in our game and it certainly cost us.

"It's team defence. It's a concern. If we're going to have any success as a team, we can't give up five goals a night and expect to win. We've got to get our team game back where we're tighter and not giving up those chances. We're starting to get more comfortable offensively, but we've got tighten up."


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