Heat is on in the race to 50

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Don't laugh, but the "50" target is within Dany Heatley's range.

In fact, he's going to have to slow down to land square on it again.

The Senators marksman, who has twice finished with exactly 50 goals in a season, scored his 30th in last night's 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. To become the third 50-goal scorer in Senators history -- joining a group that includes only he and himself -- Heatley needs 20 goals in Ottawa's final 23 games.

That would be a ridiculously impossible task for anyone else to complete, but when the Heat is on, he truly is in a league of his own.

And Heatley, who has eight goals in the past seven games, is on.

"Whatever you want," he said to a reporter who asked him if he thought he had a chance at the milestone mark, as if he wasn't sure whether the question was serious.

When he realized it was, Heatley replied: "With a little luck, okay a lot of luck ... the way it's going right now, I've just got to keep riding it. I have to keep shooting the puck.

"I guess you never know." Heatley had a tough month from Dec. 10 to Jan. 10, during which he had two uncharacteristic slumps of six-and-eight games without scoring.

Despite that, only seven other players have more goals than him this season.

Does he really have a shot at 50? Probably not. But with Heatley, you wouldn't say it's impossible, either.

STARTS AND STOPS

Reporters at the morning skate mentioned that, with Mike Comrie moving next to Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson, the stretch of back wall closest to the showers has become the "high rent" district of the Senators dressing room. Overhearing this, Alfredsson didn't miss a beat. "Yeah, one superstar and two guys who date superstars." ... The unsung hero of the night for the Senators last night was Anton "A-Train" Volchenkov. He wound up with seven blocked shots and probably a whole new set of bruises ... If Chris Neil ends up being traded, who is to say he doesn't re-sign with the Senators in off-season? It's called helping your hometown team, the Keith Tkachuk way.

THINGS I THINK I THINK

Antoine Vermette made a nice play at the 'Canes blue line, then another one at the Senators blue line to set up goals by Chris Kelly and Comrie that broke a 1-1 tie. He had a horrendous start to the season and won't come anywhere near the offensive totals counted on, but at $2.76 million US and one more year on his deal, the offer would have to be a spectacular one before I'd even consider moving Vermette. The reasons -- speed, skill, experience. And really, who amongst us is consistent? ... Not saying the goal scored by Patrick Eaves was stinky, but if Alex Auld would have just taken one step forward the puck would have gone through the crease and hit the side boards. Okay, it was stinky ... The second goal to beat Auld, he should have stopped as well. But for the rest of the night, he came up smelling like roses ... A 20-3 record down the stretch almost guarantees the Senators a first-round playoff date with the Boston Bruins. Some reward.

BETWEEN PERIODS

With his two assists last night, Alfredsson increased his lead in the franchise all-time scoring race to 411 points over Alexei (boo) Yashin. Still not sure why every fan in the place didn't get on their feet and give Alfredsson a standing ovation when he was shown on the video board as it was announced he picked up point No. 900 against the Habs on Saturday. He deserves it, even if he wasn't playing with a broken jaw ... Comrie's first goal in his second coming as a Senator was typical. "We were kinda laughing, it was a pretty little Mike Comrie (move). Fake shot then five-hole," said Heatley. Said Comrie: "That's only because I can't overpower a goalie."

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM:

Now that all four coaches who stood behind an NHL bench in Europe at the start of the season (Tom Renney, Barry Melrose, Craig Hartsburg, Michel Therrien) have been fired, Paul Maurice has some words of advice he plans to share with a buddy in Florida. "I haven't called Pete DeBoer yet, but I think he should get the flu before the plane leaves," Maurice said after yesterday's morning skate. DeBoer's Panthers start the 2009-10 season in Helsinki against the Chicago Blackhawks ... Maurice, who knows a thing or two about being fired, put a coach's last days on the job in perspective. "You're really grinding guys when you leave," he said. "The last couple of weeks, there's five or six guys that you're on their case. They don't like you very much and they're happy when you're gone. Then there's the top five or six guys. They're playing no matter who's behind the bench." ... Imagine the scrambling GMs will need to do if, as some fear, the troubled economy causes the salary cap to drop by $10 million within the next two years? No wonder teams say they're "in bed" with players they sign to long-term contracts. They're married to them, for better or worse, and it's the team that's getting ... well, you know.


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