OTTAWA - One of the heroes of the night ó Bobby Butler ó was skating in his 88th game of the season Thursday.
He hopes to get to 100, and beyond, before beginning his summer.
"I'm looking forward to playing hockey for a couple of more months, hopefully," Butler said prior to facing the Habs at Scotiabank Place, his 35th NHL game of the campaign.
Butler, who started the season in Binghamton, has been here to stay since his third recall, Feb. 9. Others have not been as lucky. The busy "Bingo Brigade" arrived in Ottawa five-strong a couple of hours before the last game of the season to be played here -- and less than 24 hours after helping the Baby Sens clinch a spot in the AHL playoffs.
Colin Greening, for one, has made the trip back and forth from Binghamton so many times he could do it blindfolded.
"I think the most games I ever played in a season (before this one) was 65 or 70," said Greening, who laced them up for the 83rd time this season, including 23 times in the NHL. "But I don't think I've ever experienced the up-and-down schedule."
Not that he's complaining.
Greening's concern is that he doesn't upset the chemistry evident in Binghamton, which will head to the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 lockout. Without so many of his stars, Bingo coach Kurt Kleinendorst deserves a lot of credit. Is he a candidate for promotion himself next season? Yes.
"You worry about (chemistry) a little bit, but you also trust the coaches to make the right decisions," said Greening. "They know the guys, they know how we play."
Butler admits he hit a wall twice in this long season, but says now he's got his second wind.
"I played for two teams in high school, so I played almost 90 games each season, and practised twice a day," said the 23-year-old Butler, who assisted on Jason Spezza's game-tying goal in the third, scored the go-ahead goal in the third, then assisted on Filip Kuba's winner in overtime. "That was when I was young and agile."
Erik Condra, David Hale, Andre Benoit and Derek Smith are the other Senators who played against the Habs but won't see their season end Saturday in Boston. Like Butler and Greening, they may believe a strong showing in the AHL playoffs will help their chances of being NHL regulars next season.
But coach Cory Clouston refused to throw a bone to the dogs when he was asked that question Thursday morning.
"I don't think it has anything to do with it," said Clouston. "I think it's a good learning experience, but if they have a poor playoff or a good playoff, they're going to have to come to camp and make the team. If they have a championship, it doesn't mean they're going to have a good or bad camp. It all depends on how they come to camp. It's not going to guarantee anyone a spot on this club."
For now, they'll have to settle for being the only NHL Senators headed to the playoffs.
THEY SAID IT
The favourite story of hockey writers reminiscing about former Senators assistant coach E.J. McGuire, who died at age 58 Thursday after a five-month battle with cancer, had to do with the time thieves broke into the then-hapless team's practice facility and made off with everything but the game tapes. "Imagine," cracked E.J. "Burglars with taste." ... Habs defenceman†P.K. Subban is often criticized by the stuffed shirts for his flamboyant on-ice celebrations. What do you think of that, P.K.? "My job is to play the game," he said. "It's not to be critical of what the critics have to say." ... Brent Sopel's top three candidates for the Calder Trophy: 1. Corey Crawford, 2. Jeff Skinner, 3. Michael Grabner. "Logan Couture plays with some amazing players," said the Habs D-man, who doesn't think similar thoughts of the Islanders' Grabner. "It'd be 1-2, in my books, for those other two guys, one way or another."
THINGS I THINK I THUNK
If I'm Sportsnet and pay the Senators as much money as I do to broadcast their games, I'm not at all happy that owner Eugene Melnyk chose to go on CTV Ottawa before the game to make a statement on the future of Cory Clouston and Bryan Murray -- even if it wasn't very revealing ... Ottawa has signed another American college player: Pat Cannone of Miami University at Ohio. Cannone, a 5-foot-11, 192-pound centre, had 14 goals and 37 points in 39 games this season. His style of play has been compared to that of former Senator Chris Kelly ... The Senators had 15 sellouts and were averaging 18,343 fans a game this season heading into Thursday's home finale, which was also played before a capacity crowd as they drew another 19,809. (You do the math for the overall 2010-11 total). This, in a campaign that often saw them ice a lineup that was more than one-third laden with AHL callups. "The fans have been great," said Spezza. "The† support they've given us, even though we've been out of it here for a little bit ... they keep showing up and cheering for us." Pretty impressive, really ... Subban's 14 goals is one shy of the franchise record for most by a rookie Habs blueliner, set in 1970-71 by Guy Lapointe. Asked about the mark, Subban shrugged. "We've got two games left," he said after the morning skate. "It's more important to me to make sure I'm playing well and doing the little things well going into the playoffs. After two games, it's a new season. Right now my focus is just playing consistent." ... Butler, a former third baseman, grew up in Marlborough, Mass. with New York Mets prospect Jimmy Fuller. The lefty, who's currently at the Double-A level, brings the heat in excess of 90 mph. He also possess a secret weapon, courtesy of Butler. "I taught him the knuckleball, it's pretty sweet," said the Senator. "But I don't think he throws it anymore."
"You have some interesting questions. Obviously I'd like to be coaching this hockey club. You asked me that yesterday. That's what I'd like to be doing. If you ask me tomorrow, I'll say the exact same thing." ó Senators coach Cory Clouston to CBC's Dan Seguin, who asked him what he'd like to be doing next season. Clouston shot Seguin a cold stare as he left the interview room, but the reporter didn't see it.