Time to turn up heat on Belfour

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:32 PM ET


 Ed Belfour hasn't given up a goal, it seems, for billions of minutes (it's actually closer to 139).

 The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender might be playing some of the best hockey of his career in this series against the Senators, but the fact remains he is almost 39 years old and has a disposition as cranky as his back.

 It was recklessly suggested by one member of the media that the Senators should consider giving Belfour a good nudge, you know, the way an 18-wheeler's windshield gives a shadfly a good nudge on a summer's night.

 "You can't do that. This isn't junior hockey," said a slightly indignant Senators forward Rob Ray, the club's enforcer in residence and part-time philosopher.

 Ray was sprawled in his stall after most of the other Senators players and media had left following the Senators' practice at the Corel Centre yesterday in preparation for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference final tonight.

 Ray dismissed the idea of running Belfour and used as his ultimate discussion ender the movie Slap Shot.

 The Johnstown Chiefs beat the Long Island Ducks after Chiefs captain Reggie Dunlop got into the head of Ducks goaltender Tommy Hanrahan with some pointed comments about the extracurricular activities of Hanrahan's wife, Suzanne.

 They fought and Hanrahan got tossed from the game.

 "What did they say when they got into the dressing room?" asked Ray yesterday. "'Great win, guys, great win.' But (Chiefs forward) Ned Braden said it wasn't a great win. 'It was a bad win because we beat their backup (goaltender),' he said."

 If the Senators are going to win this one, said Ray, they are going to beat the Leafs' best doing it.

 Anybody tried getting in Belfour's head?

 "He doesn't say much out there," said Senators winger Bryan Smolinski.

 Belfour has been masterful since that ill-fated excursion to try and poke the puck off the stick of Senators winger Marian Hossa early in the third period of Game 1.

 Belfour has turned back close to 80 shots since then.

 "I got a good view of most of the shots," he said.

 Which is the whole problem.

 If the Senators can't get into Belfour's head, they should settle for his kitchen. Rattle some pots and pans.

 If they break a few eggs, maybe they can break his string of goose eggs. He has shown he can stop what he can't see, but that can't last forever, can it?

 "We just need a goal. That'll help," said Smolinski. "If we can get one, we can get two and maybe it will snowball.

 "We've got to agitate him, get him off his game ... but it's still got be within the rules."

 They must find a way to beat Belfour because the Senators' season hangs in the balance tonight. You want to assess their chances of coming back after a loss tonight and a 3-1 deficit against this Toronto team?

 The way Belfour is playing?

 CARRYING PLAY

 They haven't scored on Belfour in almost seven periods of hockey, it's true, but there have also been long stretches where the Senators have been the dominant team. When they talk about having something to build on, those aren't hollow words.

 When asked to sum up the feeling in the Senators dressing room yesterday, centre Todd White, who has handed out some great hits in this series, said: "Confident."

 "The way we've been losing games, it's not through a lack of effort, a lack of chances or a lack of emotion," he said. "That's the positive thing. We have done some good things. Our focus for Game 4 is just gutting it out. It doesn't have to be the prettiest game. We just have to get it done."

 If all else fails, the Senators will just hope for an appearance by Lady Luck.

 "Hopefully she's good looking and she's coming around naked," said Smolinski.

 "She's going to bring it all or nothing."

 The Senators just have to fix up a place for her in Belfour's kitchen.


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