Senators aiming to share the wealth
Big line will score but coach wants rest of lineup to chip in some goals, too
It's a message Craig Hartsburg has been preaching almost since the very day he grabbed the head-coaching reins for the Ottawa Senators. Players wear the motto on the back of team T-shirts. It's painted high on the wall of the Sens dressing room, in a place where just about everyone doesn't have to work hard to see it.
And while words such as defence, discipline and accountability are all part of that mix, Hartsburg said today it's a mentality that needs to exist throughout the lineup when it comes to scoring goals. While top guns Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza are paid to hit the scoresheet on a high level, Hartsburg said the rest of the group can't expect the big three to carry the load by itself.
In other words, fourth-liners can't just be checkers all of the time.
"Every line, we’re going to ask to contribute," Hartsburg said after today's practice at the Scandinavium. "What happens is, to me, guys get themselves into positions where they don’t think they have to score. We want everybody to play the game the right way. You compete, you play well defensively but you still have to try to produce some offence for us.
"Even your fourth line, if they kick in some goals for us and bang some goals in for us, that changes the game for us. We know Spezza’s line is expected to score but we don’t want anyone going into a game thinking ‘I don’t have to score.’ You’ve got to find ways to help in those areas."
With the season-opener in Stockholm against the Pittsburgh Penguins just four days away, Hartsburg and his coaching staff have at least three lines in place. Beyond the top line, it's Antoine Vermette-Mike Fisher-Jesse Winchester on the second line, with a Chris Neil-Chris Kelly-Nick Foligno combination on the third.
The fourth line — at least for Thursday's exhbition game here against the Frolunda Indians — will consist of Cody Bass, Jarkko Ruutu and Christoph Schubert, who has been deemed a forward again by Hartsburg. Shean Donovan and/or Dean McAmmond could also fit in there, with Hartsburg saying "the fourth line, we may move around a bit. Ruutu is a guy who will play in lots of situations for us. We'll move him up in the lineup at times and he'll kill penalties for us."
Fisher agreed balance will be a key component for the Senators offensively.
"That’s what makes a team, everyone just chipping in and contributing and doing little things," he said. "Some nights, it’s going to be the big line (leading the offence). Some nights, it’s going to be another line. We all have to be just feeding off each other night in and night out.
"If we can do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance (to win) most nights."
Picard's time to shine
The decision to move Schubert to the top line means Gatineau native Alex Picard — obtained by the Senators in the Andrej Meszaros deal with Tampa Bay last month — will get his chance to play full-time minutes. Right now, he's being paired with rookie Brian Lee, behind the veteran combos of Chris Phillips-Anton Volchenkov and Jason Smith-Filip Kuba. "That’s what I worked for all camp, all summer, to have a main spot on the blue line on an NHL team," said Picard, who battled a groin injury for most of training camp. "I’m 23 years old. I’ve been up and down throughout my career. I think this is the year that I have to prove myself and do a consistent job on the blue line. That’s only going to help me become a good player."
Around the boards
Some Senators players still haven't adjusted their body clocks to European time, with a few saying they woke up at 3 a.m. — and stayed up. Centre Jason Spezza wasn't among them. "I slept like a rock," he said. "I don’t know what those guys are talking about. My body is set up to sleep whenever I tell it to" ... Martin Gerber will get the start in goal for the Frolunda game Thursday at the Scandinavium ... McAmmond left practice early today, still feeling pain from the cut on his right knee that he suffered Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens.