Sens shoot down Christmas Day games

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 PM ET

NASHVILLE — The Senators have no desire to work on Christmas Day.

While there have been suggestions in the past that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has tried to negotiate Christmas games on the schedule with the players’ union, nobody in the Ottawa dressing room wants the mandated break erased anytime soon.

“I’m not a big fan of it,” said D Chris Phillips. “I can see in some markets where it would be a big draw and in terms of building the game. It’s one of those situations where, hopefully, if they do it, it works and I’m not playing in it.”

After Bettman joined the NBA in 1981, its Christmas Day games took off in popularity with nationally televised marquee matchups beginning two years later.

For Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, the decision to play on Dec. 25 is “not even close.

“You can always push it and there’s dates you can try to exploit. I heard the talk where we’d have six teams rotating around, so that not everybody plays on Christmas, but I want Christmas off and I think a lot of guys feel that way.”

Alfredsson admitted the players might go for the idea if there were serious revenues to be gained.

KOVY TRADE HOPES QUASHED

The Senators are likely stuck with Alex Kovalev for the rest of the season. Three league executives told the Ottawa Sun they doubt the 37-year-old Kovalev will be a rental at the Feb. 28 trade deadline.

With only seven goals and nine assists in 35 games heading into Thursday’s tilt, Kovalev hasn’t been reliable considering his $5-million US salary.

As reported by the Sun earlier this month, the Blues have a mild interest in the pending unrestricted free agent.

“Maybe someone will take a chance, but I really doubt it,” said one executive. “He’s been awful.”

That’s putting it mildly. So frustrated is coach Cory Clouston, he bumped Kovalev to the fourth line for the second time in a month.

Kovalev seems to be taking this demotion in stride entering the holiday break. Earlier this month, after the first bump, Kovalev claimed he was being made a scapegoat by Clouston.

On Thursday, Kovalev was the last one off the ice after the morning skate and opened the scoring at 8:35 of the first. “I’m not going to talk about what I’m doing (for the holidays),” Kovalev told reporters. “It will be time well spent.” That’s unlike the wasted time owner Eugene Melnyk spends signing Kovalev’s paycheque most weeks.

STILL HOT TO TROTZ

John MacLean getting fired after just three months as Devils coach makes Barry Trotz’s 10-year run with the Predators all the more remarkable. “He finds a way to change it up,” said Nashville D Shea Weber. “As much as we keep the same values and the system the same in here, he still changes the way to get guys to produce.” Trotz is the second-longest-serving coach in the NHL behind Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff. So, what is Trotz’s secret to remaining the only coach in Predators history? “(GM) David (Poile). He’s the one who makes those decisions,” said Trotz. “A lot of it is this market as well. It’s a lot tougher to be in a Canadian market. When I do watch TSN or the Canadian dish, some of the stuff that is put on there is a little unrealistic. There’s different pressures that come from you guys.”

THINGS I THINK I THINK

The heat is on Cory Clouston to turn around the Senators. He is in the final year of his contract and the club needs to start producing consistent results. The talk in NHL circles is former Thrashers coach Bob Hartley is a top candidate if the Senators make a move. Hartley could also land behind New Jersey’s bench next season ... G Pascal Leclaire (lower body) skated Thursday in Ottawa with conditioning coach Chris Schwarz. Leclaire has missed a week with the ailment he suffered last Friday during warmup in Denver. He should be available to dress Sunday against Pittsburgh at home, but he’ll likely need a practice or two before starting.

THIS 'N' THAT

With wife Carrie Underwood playing at The Palace at Auburn Hills, Mich., C Mike Fisher took in the Garth Brooks concert at Bridgestone Arena with his teammates. “The show was awesome,” said Fisher, who stayed behind to spend Christmas with Underwood’s family. Underwood was back in Nashville in time for the game ... If the Preds don’t re-sign potential RFA Shea Weber before the summer, they could be slapped with an offer sheet by a contender. Weber is a superstar, and agent Craig Oster has held talks with David Poile. The two sides might want to work hard to make that happen quickly ... This was the 1,400th game in Senators history. They are 621-549-81, plus 115 ties, before the shootout was instituted.

C’EST WHAT?

“We are an alcohol free band. What that means: We drink all the free alcohol we can.” — Mike Siler, frontman for Short Notice Boys, playing at Legends Corner in Nashville.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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