Unsinkable Kelly keeps battling

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

The original "Battleship" Kelly played for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks in the 1970s.

Another one is being born in Ottawa this spring.

"It's the playoffs," Vaclav Varada said yesterday. "Upper body, lower body and facial injuries are part of it."

Yeah, but don't they usually get spread around the dressing room a little more?

"The mid-range is fine," Chris Kelly said with a grin yesterday in answering a 'how ya doin'?

Better than nuthin'.

While "Battleship" Bob Kelly gained legendary status 40 years ago as a colourful goon who could also skate and score, the Senators' 25-year old rookie is the defensive conscience of a team that very much needs to rediscover its own end right now.

Apparently, he's also unsinkable.

Kelly will be in the lineup tonight wearing protection for his left eye (area) that is now coloured and swollen after catching a Chris Neil-shot puck in Game 1 of the Ottawa-Buffalo Eastern Conference semi-final.

IMPROVED VISION

"The eye is better now," said Kelly, who is leaning toward wearing a visor after the injury heals. "You only have two of them, and you need both to play hockey and do most things.

"It was a little scary when I came off the ice, for a second there. I had a bit of blurred vision, I couldn't really see properly."

Until then, Senators athletic therapist Gerry Townend was probably wondering where he had been lately.

Kelly left Game 2 of the Tampa series with an "upper body" injury and couldn't travel with his teammates for Game 3. He did make the trip the day of the game, however, and arrived just in time to play.

"They just wanted to get another MRI and make sure it was okay for me to fly," Kelly said yesterday, dismissing rumours that he had been "hospitalized," yet refusing to identify the problem even though it was two injuries ago for him. "It's called ... nothing serious. I'd just like to leave it at that."

He left that 8-4 victory before it finished, too, this time with a "lower body" injury which made him a "game time" decision for Game 4. Naturally, the decision was that he could play.

Virtually unscathed in both that one and Game 5, Kelly made it through a whole 2 1/2 periods of the current series before requiring medical attention.

"A couple of years ago, there was a stretch where I seemed to get cut in the face a lot," he said. "I'd get the stitches out, then a new cut. But nothing like this before. They're all minor things. I'll be all right."

The worst injury he's ever played through?

"I don't think I've had anything too bad," he said. "I finished a game in junior one time and I had a broken wrist that I had to have surgery on. But I just finished the game. That was it."

When did you break it?

"First period. They taped it up and gave me some stuff to kinda ease the pain ... I think I took some Tylenols. It was hurting after the game."

Imagine that.

Along with a strong pain threshhold, Kelly also has a solid sense of humour.

When he was asked about being the last player to leave practice at Scotiabank Place the other day, he replied: "Why not? Where else are you going to get ice this time of year? And I get it for free."

He can also take a jab.

After watching him miss a couple of chances Friday, a media member searching for a Berman-ism referred to him as "Chris Kelly's Funeral Home" but then changed his mind because "he can't bury a thing."

Told of this yesterday, Kelly groaned. "Aw, that's terrible," he said. "It's pretty creative, though. Good one."

FOURTH LINE EFFECTIVE

Kelly started the playoffs as the left winger on a line with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. In the second game, his failure to convert chances was magnified by the loss. He has since been replaced by Antoine Vermette, and now centres Varada and Chris Neil on a capable fourth line that provides a disturbance.

Kelly, however, would really like to chip in with his first playoff goal and assist.

"It's frustrating, especially in the playoffs, because you just want to help the team," he said. "We're getting the chances as a line, that's the main thing. You've got to take some positives from some negatives."

He may have made a difference Friday, as coach Bryan Murray said Kelly would have been on the ice with Ottawa protecting a one goal lead late in the game.

"Hopefully, I can contribute somewhere (tonight)," said Kelly.

Wish him luck. Just don't tell him to break a leg.


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