Sens still short on jam

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- It was during another preliminary playoff series the Senators were cruising through that a fan at a giddy Scotiabank Place spotted GM John Muckler waiting for an elevator.

"Hey John," he shouted. "Thanks for not trading for Gary Roberts."

Muckler laughed, no doubt feeling further vindication over his decision to pass up on the gritty veteran he felt was too costly to obtain at the deadline.

Today, you can see why his thanks-but-no-thanks response to a conversation with the Florida Panthers was a mistake. Four games into a final from which they are fading, it is painfully obvious that Roberts was exactly the player the Senators needed to acquire.

Roberts brings to the table the substance they don't appear to have quite enough of to win this Stanley Cup. He has the jam it looks like they're missing.

The Senators are a highly skilled and well-coached team. Since Christmas, it was easy to imagine them getting this far.

Plain and simple, they didn't need a Roberts to beat Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo -- teams to which they were superior.

They did, however, require an extra push to get them over the top.

They needed more leadership, an added dose of drive and determination to get them through the tight checking they were bound to face, to get out from under the smothering style being employed by the Ducks.

Oh, they also needed another guy who had been there before to remind them that, even though they are young and full of potential, they may never get back this way again.

Even before the salary cap era, it was extremely difficult to make it to the Stanley Cup finals in consecutive years. The New Jersey Devils (2000-2001) were the last team do turn the trick and only three others -- the Detroit Red Wings (1997-1998), the Pittsburgh Penguins (1991-1992) and the Edmonton Oilers (1987-1988) since the dynasty days of the Oilers, Islanders, Habs and Flyers.

And don't confuse this as a step in the process.

Only seven times in Stanley's history has a team lost in the finals one year and bounced back to capture the Cup the following spring. And only twice (Montreal, 1967-68 and Edmonton, 1983-84) has it happened since the league expanded from six teams.

The Senators needed to fully realize this opportunity might be a once in a lifetime deal.

But what they needed most was another guy willing to bust down a wall -- or through the hooking and holding of a Francois Beauchemin -- to get to the net.

When it came right down to it, they needed another Mike Fisher.

Roberts is that kind of player.

The task the Senators face is not impossible. After all, they are back in Disneyland, and the hockey world is long overdo for a Miracle on Ice sequel.

If they can somehow defy all the logic and signs and sneak out of the Honda Center with a upset victory tonight, the Senators can at least making things interesting again.

By living until the weekend and playing the 100th playoff game in franchise history before the rowdies at Scotiabank Place, perhaps they can get themselves another trip to California next week.

Much more likely, the run ends tonight.

The Ducks have outscored and outchecked the Senators. They have also so clearly wanted it more.

At the very least, Roberts would have closed the "want" gap.

THIS AND THAT

A game-time decision will be made on whether Dean McAmmond plays tonight. The veteran skated again yesterday and said that he's not experiencing any headaches from the Chris Pronger hit he absorbed in Game 3, but also noted that his mechanics are 100 % right now either. "I'm hoping to play, I feel pretty good," McAmmond said before the glare of TV lights and reporters notepads. "But it's head stuff ... the computer was never very fast to begin with, but now it's kind of like I'm running on dial-up instead of broadband. On the ice I feel pretty much normal, but right now, it seems things are slowed down a bit." Said Murray: "Dean said his hands aren't as good as they used to be, but other than that he's fine. So we'll see (today) if he can play." ... A sign of the times -- Dany Heatley, who broke out of a slump Monday but has just two goals in 10 games, lost the Juice Boy (scoring) competition at practice yesterday. "Yeah, yeah, shoot the Juice Boy," he told photographers taking his picture in the dressing room. Heatley was the brunt of some good-natured jokes from teammates, and all had a good laugh.


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