Sens hold off on final cuts

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

The motto of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is they always get their man.

The problem for the Senators, who spent part of the weekend playing cops and robbers with the RCMP as part of a team-building exercise, is they've got too many men right now.

The good news for guys on the bubble is they will likely get to stick around for another day or two before the roster is pared down in preparation for the opener Saturday in New York against the Rangers.

Coach Cory Clouston said management has pretty much made up their mind on the final roster, but with other teams yet to finish their pre-season and make their final roster adjustments, there's no harm in seeing what could shake loose.

“We have a real good idea of who is going to be here when the dust settles, but we also understand there are other teams right now just finishing up the pre-season and we want to wait,” said Clouston.

“We don’t want to do something without waiting at least until everything else is settled and we make our decision with a full knowledge of what’s going on in the landscape of other teams.”

That could cut both ways.

There might be a team with an extra player who could fill a role for the Senators, or, more likely, a team that might need help and would take one of the Senators’ extra players off their hands.

All 26 players still in camp took part in the team-building activities, during which the Senators fired weapons on the RCMP range and got some insight into the importance of teamwork for our national police force.

“In their environment, it’s not a goal against if they mess up, somebody gets injured. There’s a little more at stake,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. “We got to see a little bit of what they do and we had some demonstrations. It was kind of neat to see in their line of work, when they go in, how much they depend on each other, knowing the guy next to him is going to be doing his job.”

He said with so many new faces on the roster — Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek only joined the club on the first day of camp after the Dany Heatley trade with the Sharks — the weekend activities helped players get to know each other.

“It was doing stuff off the ice, but it was the same principles,” said Alfredsson, “the same basics as we go through as a team.”

Management, meanwhile, will wrestle with making sure they are best filling the roster with the right pieces.

At 19, is Erik Karlsson ready for a regular role? Is the skill he brings on the power play enough to offset his inexperience and physical immaturity?

Is Matt Carkner’s toughness on the blue line enough to compensate for not being as skilled or mobile as others?

“We’re going to sit down (today) and the next day,” said Clouston.

“It’s not like a junior team, where if you play well you make the team, and if you play poorly, you get cut. There are so many other factors that have to come into play. We want to make sure we have the right pieces to the puzzle. You can’t have all one type of player. You can’t have one type of defenceman. We want to make sure we have areas covered, we’re skilled enough, but we’re also tough enough. We want to make sure we have different types of players, as well.”

Alfredsson has been happy with the change in approach under Clouston, playing more of a pressure game up the ice than the passive defensive game of early last season.

“I think our strength, hopefully, is going to be our forechecking game and be able to turn pucks over to create offence. Special teams, I think, we can improve from last year,” said Alfredsson. “In today’s game, that’s really important. Every team plays defence pretty good. You don’t get as many chances as you did five, six, seven years ago. If you win that match within the game, you put yourself in really good position.”

GM Bryan Murray has been happy with what he’s seen in camp.

Does he see these Senators as a playoff team?

“Oh, yeah, I believe so,” said Murray. “It looks like a harder-working team that has more structure than we’ve had in the last couple of years. I look at this group and I think it’s deep. We have goaltending now (with Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott) and that’s the key.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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