It's Schubie, hands down

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Mike Fisher wasn't around to defend his hardest shot title at the Senators' skills competition yesterday.

The centre missed the competition with a sore hand, injured Saturday night when he blocked a shot by Canadiens defenceman Patrice Brisebois.

But Fisher, who scored the tying goal with less than two minutes to go in what turned out to be a 5-4 shootout loss to the Habs, said he'll be back tomorrow night when the Senators host the Capitals in the club's final game before the all-star break.

"I'll be fine (for tomorrow night)," he said. "My hand was just a little swollen, so I took the time off."

In Fisher's absence, defenceman Christoph Schubert, the annual bridesmaid in the event, won the hardest shot competition with a blast of 101.5 mph. Fisher won last year with a shot of 105 mph.

"I'm happy with the win, yeah, but not the speed," said Schubert.

But with Fisher out, isn't that like winning one of golf's majors without Tiger Woods in the field?

"Nobody is going to ask that after. It's like scoring a goal. Nobody's going to ask five years later if it's a good goal or not," said Schubert.

Forward Antoine Vermette successfully defended his titles in both the fastest skater and accuracy shooting competitions, lowering his event record for a lap around the rink to 13.590 seconds from 13.709. After both he and linemate Chris Kelly took out the four targets in five shots in the accuracy competition, Vermette won a playoff, needing just one shot to take out a target to Kelly's four.

"My strategy was to visualize (Kelly's) face on the target and that worked out pretty good," said Vermette.

The event, which was attended by 13,450 fans at Scotiabank Place and saw Chris Phillips' Red team beat Daniel Alfredsson's Black squad with some help from some minor hockey players, provided a light-hearted respite in a dreary season for the Senators.

The star of the show was winger Jarkko Ruutu. When asked by a young fan what he likes to eat at the rink, Ruutu, suspended for two games a couple of weeks ago for biting Buffalo Sabre Andrew Peters, replied: "Buffalo fingers."

In the shootout competition, he came out with a flowing wig and sparklers on the back of his skates. He used the old puck on a string trick to beat rookie goaltender Brian Elliott for a goal.

For a good chunk of the season the Senators were the lowest-scoring team in the NHL and would need the puck on a string to score. But after scoring 12 goals in their last three games, the Senators have now moved up to 27th in the league in scoring (2.42 goals a game), passing the Kings (2.36) and Predators (2.40).

The Senators have points in three straight games (2-0-1), but will have to take better care of the puck tomorrow night than they did against the Canadiens when the Senators were forced to rally from a 4-2, third-period deficit to get their point.

"The biggest thing for us is, we have to improve turnovers," said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg. "At least half the scoring chances Montreal got were by our turnovers. For lack of a better word, we were sloppy. If we do that against Washington, they've got guys who will make us pay a big price.

"This is going to be a big test, but we would love to go into the break on a positive."

The Senators won't play for six days after the Caps' visit and will have at least four of those days off before returning to play the Devils at home a week from tomorrow.

The Senators will need something close to a miracle to keep their streak of 11 straight years in the playoffs alive.

The Penguins' 3-0 win over the Rangers yesterday allowed them to move into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 50 points, 13 more than the Senators, but Ottawa holds four games in hand on Pittsburgh.

HEAR AND THERE

Ethan MacLean, an 11-year-old who plays for the Kanata Blazers Minor AA Peewees, hit four targets in the minimum four shots in the accuracy shooting yesterday, joining the likes of NHLers Ray Bourque, Jeremy Roenick and Vermette to turn the impressive trick. He was mobbed by the Senators, who streamed off the benches to congratulate him after hitting the last target ... Hartsburg said there's a chance D Anton Volchenkov could play tomorrow night. He's missed the last seven games with an upper-body injury ... Elliott will likely make his fifth straight start in net.


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