Coach puts Heat on Dany

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

New Senators coach Cory Clouston would need a couple of phone books to literally see eye-to-eye with lanky winger Dany Heatley.

Turns out the two aren't figuratively seeing eye-to-eye, either, when it comes to how Heatley is playing since Clouston took over the club from fired Craig Hartsburg just over a week ago.

When asked to assess Heatley's play yesterday, Clouston said:

"He's got a ways to go. He's learning a new system, it's a lot more of a pressure system. He's got to move his feet a little more. But he's getting there, he's getting close.

"My assessment might be different than other people's. He's not where we want him to be and neither is the whole team in general. He's not different. Some guys take a little bit longer. He's obviously not used to a pressure game and being in exact spots where we want him to be. Sometimes it may look like he's not skating when actually he's trying to think a little more rather than react," said Clouston.

"For it to come naturally, it may take some guys a little bit longer. He's not the only guy every once in a while we've noticed, especially on video, you can see it's not quite there, it's not quite in a habitual form for them, sometimes they have to think a little bit more than we would like them to do. Again, it's only been two or three practices. It's coming."

When the subject was brought up to Heatley, he disagreed with the coach's view.

Here's how the question was phrased:

Q: Cory says he doesn't think your game is where it's usually at or where it should probably be at. He thinks maybe you're pressing too much. Is that fair?

Heatley replied: "No. I don't feel that way right now. I think I'm just trying to shoot the puck. I've had some good chances, like I said, last game, and it's kind of funny. The way I go, if a goal goes in and you play horribly, you guys all say everything is great and if you play well and the puck doesn't go in, you're playing bad, so ... I'm just going to keep trying to shoot the puck and eventually they'll go in."

NOT A MEDIA FAN

Heatley has always bristled at criticism from us great unwashed in the media -- we apparently only look to see who's scoring goals to see who's playing well -- but there is no misunderstanding his coach's assessment.

Heatley's play needs to improve and the coach was not talking about scoring goals here, though that would help.

Heatley has 22 this season (eight in his last 26 games) and is on pace to score 36, which would be his lowest total for a full season since his rookie year with Atlanta in 2001-02, when he had 26.

Bad seasons happen and Heatley isn't alone on the Senators this year.

"Everybody's numbers aren't there," said Jason Spezza, Heatley's linemate. "We haven't won very many games as a team. When the team struggles and we have 125 goals or whatever it is, everybody is going to be down. If everybody's numbers were where they should be, we wouldn't be talking about it, we'd be in first place. It goes with the territory. When the team has a bad year, individuals do, too, usually."

Clouston, who will take his team on the road today for a five-games-in-seven-days trip starting tomorrow night in Buffalo for a rematch with the Sabres, said he's encouraged by what he's seen from his club, which has a 1-1-1 record since he arrived.

"A nice progression," he called it. "I guess we've showed there is actually a lot character in that dressing room. We've battled from a 2-0 deficit (against Boston), we got up 2-0 as well (against Buffalo on Saturday) with all the momentum against us and we didn't break. Once they scored (the Sabres) second goal we turned the play back on and applied a lot more pressure to them and had opportunities to score in regulation."

"The general feeling is it's going a little better around here," said Spezza.

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