Sens need some capital gains from Bondra

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:33 PM ET


 Room service.

 That's what the absence from practice yesterday of the Senators' oldest active player was for anyone interested in taking a cruel but fairly accurate shot at his recent play.

 The question: "See Peter Bondra out there?"

 The response: "Not since March 6 or so."

 Bondra has 477 goals in 984 regular-season games. Even more impressively, he joined the Senators with 30 goals in 73 career playoff games. Hence the notion he comes up big when games are biggest.

 So how come he's barely visible now?

 It's not just that the 36-year-old former Washington Capital hasn't scored in any of the three most recent games against the Maple Leafs. Beating Ed Belfour has proven to be a daunting task for most Senators. And it's not just that Bondra has only one goal in his last 17 games, or that he also has but five assists during that time as well.

 Aside from a goal-crease chance that drew a Brian Leetch penalty at the 19:59 mark of the second period Monday, Bondra hasn't done a whole lot of anything. He hasn't shown the drive of someone who, when obtained at the trade deadline, talked about wanting to make the most of what could be his final shot at winning a Stanley Cup. Or the jump of someone who would like this team to pick up the $4.5-million option on his contract next season.

 Rather, he has looked more like a guy who is on the slippery downslope of a great career.

 That he missed yesterday's drills, along with Marian Hossa, suggests Bondra is playing injured, which would also explain why he's performing below the standard he has set for most of the past 14 seasons.

 But if such is the case, Bondra wouldn't take that out.

 "I had the opportunity to take (the day) off, to go on the bike instead of the ice, so I took it," he said.

 Meanwhile, Bondra has no answer for his struggles.

 "I try to work hard, but obviously the goals aren't there," he stated. "Maybe something will come, and come at the right time. Like the next game."

 Certainly, there's no time like the present. The clock is definitely ticking on the Senators. If they don't turn on that red light over Belfour's head tonight, it will be a signal for the chroniclers to remind you that there has only been a handful of teams to come back from a 3-1 series deficit.

 HISTORY ON SIDE

 History also says the Senators will not be shut out again this evening. Never have they gone three consecutive games without scoring a goal, in the playoffs or in the regular season.

 Their goal, of course, is more than a goal. But they have to start somewhere.

 "We're still in the game," said Bondra. "It's not like the series is going to end (tonight). But obviously, there's a little bit more pressure on us. We've got to win and get back in the series."

 They need more of what they've been getting from Marian Hossa. They need something from Daniel Alfredsson and Martin Havlat. They need Todd White to bury open-net chances. They need a much stronger pulse from Radek Bonk.

 And they need better play from guys they've acquired to help them at this time of year.

 When GM John Muckler traded for Bondra without losing a player from his roster, it looked like the steal of the NHL season. Almost like when he dealt for another veteran, Bryan Smolinski, about 12 months earlier.

 Interestingly, the only three players who were on for both of Toronto's goals Monday were Bondra, Smolinski and defenceman Brian Pothier, who was skating in his fourth NHL playoff game.

 Another Muckler acquisition, Greg de Vries, has also had his struggles. Good thing for Vaclav Varada, the only one of those picked up at the deadline who is still currently looking like a really good idea.

 "I can do more, I know that, and I will try to do more," said Bondra. "It's not always goals, it's results, but obviously, I'm a goal scorer. I've got to put the puck in the net."

 About now, it would be as welcome as room service brought up by Jessica Simpson.


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