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Sens aiming to spark top guns

Alfredsson, Foligno swap spots to give first two lines boost

Friday, 09.10.2009 / 4:09 PM / Features
By Rob Brodie  - OttawaSenators.com
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Sens aiming to spark top guns
Jason Spezza (pictured) will have Nick Foligno and Milan Michalek on his wings during Saturday night's game against the Atlanta Thrashers at Scotiabank Place. Daniel Alfredsson will now line up with Mike Fisher and Alex Kovalev (Getty Images).
The good news is, the Ottawa Senators have managed to patch together back-to-back victories without much in the way of offence from their top guns.

But head coach Cory Clouston is aware that can’t last forever. With that thought in mind, he’s moved forward Nick Foligno onto his top unit alongside Jason Spezza and Nick Foligno, while captain Daniel Alfredsson will slide onto the right wing beside Alex Kovalev and Mike Fisher.

“We haven’t gotten enough production from our top two lines,” Clouston said after the Senators’ practice session earlier today at Scotiabank Place. “We’ve been playing well, we just haven’t gotten the offence we wanted from them.”

Fisher, third-line centre Peter Regin – with his second in three games – and defenceman Matt Carkner accounted for the goals in Thursday’s 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders. On Tuesday in Toronto, it was Shean Donovan and Alfredsson, on a penalty shot, finding the back of the net against the Maple Leafs.

“It’s a good change,” acknowledged Spezza when asked about the swapping of Foligno and Alfredsson. “Both our lines haven’t really scored 5-on-5, so it’s good to mix it up. I think it’s a good sign, though, that we’ve won two games without our lines contributing a lot offensively. It’s a testament to some of the depth we have that we’ve been talking about going into the year.”

Clouston feels his top scorers want to get the job done, but are perhaps pressing a little too hard to make it happen.

“I really do (believe that),” he said. “They know they’re supposed to be counted on for scoring and the third- and fourth-line guys are scoring. So I think they feel a little more added pressure. The nice thing is, we’ve been able to get a couple of wins without them scoring.

"It’s a good change. Both our lines haven’t really scored 5-on-5, so it’s good to mix it up. I think it’s a good sign, though, that we’ve won two games without our lines contributing a lot offensively. It’s a testament to some of the depth we have that we’ve been talking about going into the year." - Jason Spezza
“We preached that all through (training) camp, that we’re not always going to get goals from our top two lines. The league is too good, there’s too much parity and the checking is so tight that you’re not always going to get production from your so-called first or second line. You need to balance that out and that’s what we’ve been able to do the last couple of games.”

What’s also helped is the goaltending of Pascal Leclaire, who allowed only three goals in the two wins and made a highlight-reel pad save Thursday night on a shot by Isles rookie John Tavares that seemed labelled for an open side of the net.

“You can tell (Leclaire) has been hungry since coming to camp after missing most of last year (following ankle surgery),” said Alfredsson. “He’s just been real composed and calm in there. There’s good energy in the locker-room as well. He’s pumped up before games and it’s nice to see.”

Around the boards

Centre Ryan Shannon (upper body) returned to practice with the team on Friday, but Clouston said it’s “doubtful” either he or Jesse Winchester (right knee) will suit up against the Thrashers. “No one deserves to come out of the lineup right now so even if they were healthy, I don’t know if I would make changes now,” he said. “But they’re not quite ready yet.” … Defenceman Filip Kuba (lower body) is likely to resume skating on Sunday … Tickets are still available for Saturday’s game and Monday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).


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