Senators reunite top guns
Spezza, Alfredsson and Heatley aim to spark offence against Rangers
With his team in need of a serious offensive jolt, Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg has decided to reunite his top guns against the New York Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200). So it'll be captain Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley flanking Jason Spezza once more on the Senators' No. 1 line.
"We need a spark," Hartsburg said after the team's pre-game skate earlier today at the Garden. "We need something to get us going. I took them apart earlier because there was nothing happening (offensively) and (Mike Fisher) and Alfie were good. We won some games and now we've struggled, so we've got to try something and get some spark back in our lineup."
The Senators (6-9-2) have scored only eight goals during a four-game losing streak, something that has to change against the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers tonight. With all of that in mind, Hartsburg simply couldn't limit his scoring leaders to just power-play duty together any longer.
"Playing (them) together right now might be the thing that does spark us," he said. "It's a long year. They'll be together and they'll be apart at times, and we've had success when they've been apart. Now we may be at the point where we need them to play (together) and play well."
Alfredsson, for one, is enthused about rejoining his old linemates.
"We talked to (Hartsburg) yesterday and he said he was going to try us together again," said Alfredsson. "He wants us to play a solid game, and when we get chances, make the most of it. It's going to be exciting, no question.
"We have to get the puck moving a little better and score when we get the chance. We're not getting production from the people we need and we've got to step up."
"(Bell) is playing very well down there," said Hartsburg. "He's a puck-moving guy, handles the puck, skates well and we hope he can come up and show that with our team. We've talked about that as something we need, and if he can provide that, it would be a big boost for us."
Bell has been chomping at the bit for such an opportunity since the day he was first assigned to the B-Sens out of training camp.
"It's a good chance," he said. "The team isn't in a good place right now, so hopefully (we) can get back on the right foot and I can be a part of it.
"Making some smart plays and contributing, I think, is the big thing (for me). The team is looking for some offence and looking for somebody to help put the puck in the net and maybe contribute a little bit more on the power play. I'll just take any chance I get and try to run with it."
Around the boards
Winger Chris Neil (knee) is out tonight, with an MRI planned for Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury. "He's going to get evaluated tomorrow when we get home," said Hartsburg. "He feels better today but it's still not right." ... Tonight marks the Senators' first matchup against former defenceman Wade Redden, who signed with the Blueshirts as a free agent in the off-season ... Alex Auld (5-5-1) makes the start in goal for the Senators. He is 1-0-1 in his career against the Rangers with a 0.96 goals-against average, including a shutout ... Defencemen Christoph Schubert and Luke Richardson are tonight's scratches ... Fewer than 50 tickets remain for the Montreal Canadiens' visit to Scotiabank Place on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200), while only 900 are left for Saturday's rematch with the Rangers (3 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).