OTTAWA - The Senators had fresh legs for their run-in with the Maple Leafs Tuesday. They better have appreciated the feeling.
For every one of their six regular-season meetings with Toronto in 2011-12, it will be the second of back-to-back games for the Senators. GM Bryan Murray’s pleas to the NHL’s schedule-maker to fix this matter were ignored.
On the other side of it, only once will the Leafs be playing the Senators after facing another team the night before.
The discrepancy has not gone unnoticed by players.
“I looked at a schedule and I don’t like that we play the day before every time we play Toronto, but that’s the way it is,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said without prompting Tuesday morning. “We’ll have to play smart in the games we play them.”
To stay in a playoff race even until Christmas, the Senators will have to play smart against everybody.
STARTS AND STOPS
Peter Regin injury or not, Mika Zibanejad deserves to make the Senators’ opening-night roster. The 18-year-old has been one of the team’s better forwards of late, and not just because he’s now tied with Zack Smith for its goal-scoring lead, with three. For the second night in a row “Zee-Bad” (like that one?) showed a deft touch around the net, batting in a rebound after Chris Neil made the right shot to create one ... Nikita Filatov remains goal-less after five pre-season games, but his game is looking better every night. Against the Leafs, Filatov was dancing with the puck in the first period, providing Gordie Wilson numerous “Oh, my heavens” opportunities ... Neil, who is having a very strong training camp, had two more assists to give him four points in four games. He also wore the associate captain’s ‘A,’ giving him a chance to talk with the referees who usually tell him where to go ... Jason Spezza will and should get skewered for his giveaway in the neutral zone that led to Mikhail Grabovski’s short-handed goal. On a young team that needs him to shine nightly, Spezza has to be less creative when he’s not inside the opposition’s blue line.
IT MAKES YOU GO HMMM ...
Alfredsson probably didn’t mean to take a shot with this pre-game comment. “Toronto’s been rebuilding for some time, we’re just starting our process.” Then, he didn’t mean to fire that puck at Scott Niedermayer as the horn sounded to end the period in the 2007 Stanley Cup final, either ... Something else you won’t read or hear anywhere else — Paul MacLean enjoyed a meal of panko-crusted cod and chips in Newfoundland ... In semi-related news, with 77 career games under his belt, Leafs W Joey Crabb has more NHL experience than any other crustacean ... Moreso this season than any in the past, the Senators cannot afford to take those stupid too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties that they took another of in the first period. That’s two in three home games, which is two too many.
Asked if he believes he’s ready for the NHL, rookie D-man David Rundblad shrugged. “Hard to say,” he said, without much difficulty at all. “I hope I get the chance sometime. I don’t know whether if it’s in the beginning or the end or middle (of the season). Just have to wait and see.” Rundblad is mum about his plans — whether they be in Sweden or Binghamton — if he doesn’t break camp with Ottawa. But the above quote suggests he doesn’t plan on straying too far. MacLean’s opinion of the slick Swede’s play to date: “David, with the puck, has been outstanding. He has National Hockey League brains and vision. The only issue we have with David is without the puck. In his defence, he’s probably never had to do it that much. But in order to play here he has to be able to defend. To his defence, he’s a smart enough player that we can teach him that.” ... Zenon Konopka has missed two days of on-ice work because of his back problem, but he did take part in Tuesday’s morning skate and hopes to play Thursday in Boston. At the same time, he’ll follow the doctor’s orders — or at least those of head athletic therapist Gerry Townend. “We have a really good training staff here, the best I’ve ever been a part of,” said Konopka. “They went in-depth with every injury I’ve ever had. I have all the faith in the world in them.” ... Jesse Winchester’s shoulder injury is probably more serious than you might have thought. MacLean said the veteran forward was expected to miss 4-6 weeks after crashing into the boards on the first day of camp.
THINGS I THINK I THUNK
Three goals is an explosion for the Senators. “I’d like to see some offence,” MacLean said before the game. “We’ve been coming from behind. As (former Winnipeg Jets coach) Tommy McVie said, ‘catch-up hockey is losing hockey.’ We don’t want to make a habit of doing that.” ... Dean Brown would have turned blue in the face had he bellowed his trademark “Scrambullllll” leading up to Nick Foligno’s first pre-season goal. The puck seemed like it was in the blue paint long enough that it should have been covered by somebody.
In the wake of the on-ice exchange between Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and the Rangers’ Sean Avery, the Senators were asked if there’s a line that should not be crossed by players in each other’s face during a game. “There is,” said Alfredsson, who believes the barbs are a lot tamer now than they were in his early NHL days. “But at the same time, in the heat of the moment, stuff comes out of your mouth that you wouldn’t say at a dinner table. It’s something that, especially in today’s day and age with HD and they can read lips, you’ve got to beware at all times and try to show respect to your peers.”