Sens bonding at CFB Petawawa

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

The final 23-man roster in place, the Senators are gathered at CFB Petawawa to bond as a unit.

As they prepare to host the Sabres in the home opener Friday, the Senators were expected to spend Sunday at the base, participating in team-building exercises to prepare for the rigorous regular season.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is a supporter of the military and Ottawa players aren’t the first to visit where many soldiers have trained before serving in Afghanistan and in other missions.

Before the 2009 world junior championship in Ottawa, Team Canada underwent similar training in Petawawa. That included a 30-foot jump from a helicopter that even Melnyk took part in.

The Senators’ on-ice work begins Monday with an open practice at Silver Dart Arena (10:30 a.m.). There is plenty to be done in a short time.

GM Bryan Murray made the final cuts Saturday before the 8-5 victory over the Rangers at Scotiabank Place.

There are only three new faces on the roster.

Signed as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, defenceman Sergei Gonchar is the biggest acquisition. Centre Zack Smith has made it after three attempts, while veteran blueliner David Hale will start the season here.

Murray said the Senators have some work to do this week getting the troops prepared and working as a cohesive unit — especially on the power play, where Gonchar is expected to make an impact.

“I think Gonchar will address what we thought he would with some offence off the back end,” said Murray. “I don’t like the way we’re moving the puck on the power play, but it’s just a matter of getting some practice and people shooting the puck off some passes.

“Zack Smith brings a real strong individual to our team and the type of character that you want to add.”

Judging by what we saw in camp, the top two lines will be: Jason Spezza-Milan Michalek-Daniel Alfredsson; and Mike Fisher-Nick Foligno-Alex Kovalev.

That could change depending on Foligno. He had a strong camp, but needs to keep up the consistency with Peter Regin showing signs he deserves more ice time on the back of a strong performance on Saturday.

“I think our top two lines are going to be fine,” said Murray. “It just seems throughout training camp that (Fisher) has been a little bit sore and (Alfredsson) hasn’t played a lot.

“Until I see them in real games and somewhat more healthy, it’s going to be real hard to think we’re going to score some goals from that position until they get some co-ordination going.”

The biggest question mark is goaltending.

Neither Pascal Leclaire nor Brian Elliott can brag about their camps.

It appears Leclaire will start Game 1. He knows he must be much more consistent than he was in the pre-season.

“I’m going to have to be better. I know that,” said Leclaire. “(Who starts Friday is) out of my hands. It’s done. The most important thing is to get ready for the start of the season, have a good week of practice and come together as a team.

“I don’t think we’ll have any problem doing that. It’s exciting to start every year and that’s the main focus right now.”


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