Pop, no ice for Carkner after mistake

Ottawa Senators Matt Carkner during practice at Scotiabank Place earlier this month. (ERROL...

Ottawa Senators Matt Carkner during practice at Scotiabank Place earlier this month. (ERROL MCGIHON/QMI AGENCY)

Don Brennan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:32 PM ET

Matt Carkner spent just a little too much time with his dad during the Senators' recently completed "Fathers Trip."

Naturally, the big defenceman would've preferred to have been playing rather than watching the two games like the man who raised him.

Instead, Carkner and fellow veteran Zenon Konopka were the healthy scratches for a third and fourth consecutive time while coach Paul MacLean stuck with a winning lineup in Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"That's the way it is," said Carkner, whose father Dennis was one of 17 guests the Senators had in tow. "We won the game before 4-0 (in Tampa), so obviously the coach doesn't want to mix things up. That's hockey. All I can do is be ready for when I get back in the lineup."

Carkner's replacement has been Brian Lee, while Binghamton callup Jim O'Brien has skated in the fourth-line centre spot usually occupied by Konopka. Both Lee and O'Brien contributed offensively to the Senators' 6-2 win over the Panthers.

"I thought I was playing decent before I made a mistake in the Islanders game," said Carkner, referring to a 2-1 overtime loss on Feb. 3 during a seven-game skid. "Sometimes that's enough to get you out of the lineup. Obviously, we've won some games (recently), so I'm just working hard to be ready."

Both Carkner and Konopka are eligible to become unrestricted free agents in July, but both have a strong desire to remain in Ottawa.

"Obviously, it's in your head," Carkner said of his future, "but you can't really do much about it except for work hard and go out and practise and get yourself ready.

"I'd love to be back here next year. But again, those are things that aren't in my hands. All I can do is worry about myself, worry about playing, and right now it's practising. I'm practising hard and obviously you never know what happens during the year. I've always worked hard to get back on the ice and that's all I have to do."

BIG RIG BREW

Chris Phillips will soon have a beer named after him.

It will be available in a new bar/restaurant bearing his nickname.

The Big Rig, a micro brewpub located a slapshot from Canada's largest Ikea at Pinecrest and Iris, is expected to open in May.

"I've been involved with some other restaurants and stuff before, but having this one from the ground up, and obviously having the Big Rig brew will be fun," said the Senators defenceman, who will have four partners, including Victoria brew master Lon Ladell. "I'm looking forward to it."

FATHER KNOWS BEST

Hasse Alfredsson is as quick with his wit as his son is with a snap shot. Asked why the Senators have a 5-0-1 record during the Fathers Trip the three years it's been incorporated, he didn't pause for a second. "It's easy," said Hasse. "We tell them what to do."

Dan's dad was thrilled that he and the other fathers were invited into the dressing room for final pre-game preparations by coach Paul MacLean, something that hasn't been done on past trips.

"I thought it was a joke at first," he said. "They were sitting on the floor and we were sitting on the bench, so it was neat. We loved it.

"This guy listens to the boys, too," Hasse added of MacLean. "If they come up with something, he'll listen. It's unbelievable. He's so good with the kids. He's been around many years. He played in the NHL, he knows what it's all about. He's amazing. I like this guy. And he's got a moustache, too."

The razor, of course, never grazes Mr. Alfredsson's upper lip either.

STARTS AND STOPS

MacLean says O'Brien has taken his game to another level since he first saw him in training camp, when the former first-rounder struggled with taking direction and paying attention to detail. Where does MacLean see O'Brien settling in?

"Down the road right now is where he is right now," said MacLean. "That's where I would say at this point he's going to stay, in that third-, fourth-line centre spot, killing penalties. He's a right-handed centre, he can help us out. He brings a great work ethic to the game and he can get around the game. His mobility is fine and he defends real well. He can provide some offence. We're not expecting huge numbers from him. Just a player you can put on the ice and you know you're going to have a good shift ... C Jesse Winchester was back on the ice, but didn't stick around to practice with his teammates Friday. "He skated, I think it was the second time," MacLean said of Winchester, who recently had a setback in his recovery from concussion problems. "So that's a positive. He's making progress." ... Just like that, the Senators went from struggling mightily to playing like they did earlier in the season. "We just started playing the right way we needed to play," explained Nick Foligno. "Sometimes over the course of a year, it's such a long year that you get away from things. Bad habits start to creep into your game, and it's hard to reverse those. We kind of re-evaluated ourselves and found what mistakes we were making on a consistent basis and I think we've done that for the most part."

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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