'A big loss' for Senators
Blue-line corps ready to pull together to fill Vochenkov void
|Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov and Kamil Kreps of the Florida Panthers slide toward Ottawa goaltender Brian Elliott during their game Wednesday night in Sunrise, Fla. Volchenkov suffered a right elbow injury on the play and will be out for at least two weeks (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images).
He is the Ottawa Senators' ultimate warrior.
And filling the giant void created by the injury loss of defenceman Anton Volchenkov surely won't be a one-man job. The burly Russian suffered a right elbow injury when Kamil Kreps of the Florida Panthers fell on top of him Wednesday night during the third period of the Senators' 4-3 victory at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.
Senators head coach Cory Clouston said Volchenkov is likely out for at least "a couple of weeks," pending an MRI when the team returns to Ottawa after tonight's game against the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).
Brian Lee has been recalled from the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators to fill the vacancy on the back end. But Ottawa blueliner Chris Campoli, who turned in a strong game – including two assists – alongside veteran Filip Kuba in the win over the Panthers, said it'll take a collaborative effort to replace a blueliner who has logged an average of 21:27 of ice time each night so far this season.
"(Volchenkov) plays a lot of minutes, important minutes," said Campoli. "He's a great player and he competes and battles. He's a warrior, really, out there and we're going to have to pick it up. There's available minutes for guys out there now and guys have to step up and fill the void.
"It's not going to be one guy. Probably, it's going to be us as a whole. We're going to have to do it together."
Added Chris Phillips, Volchenkov's long-time defence partner: "It's a big injury for us. We'll certainly miss him. He plays a lot of minutes in key situations. But it's an opportunity for other guys to step in now and for other guys to play. In those situations, that experience (they gain) pays off at the end of the season and you might have to rely on that again."
The team's goaltenders will no doubt miss the shot-blocking element that Volchenkov – one of the National Hockey League's best in that category – brings to the table each night.
"He's a goalie's best friend," said Pascal Leclaire. "But I think we're really comfortable with all the guys we have back there and everyone will step up. That’s what usually happens when a guy goes down. Everybody tries to step up and elevate their game a little bit just to (help fill the void). We’ll be all right. He’ll really be missed, but we’ll figure out a way to be in good shape."
Fortunately, the Senators just welcomed the steady veteran Kuba back to their blue line from an injury absence of his own, which benefited Campoli greatly.
"(Kuba) has been around for awhile, so he's got that experience," said Campoli. "He made things easier for me on (Wednesday) night and it was good. Things went well, we helped the team and at the end of the day, that's what's important."
Clouston, who also lauded the play of Matt Carkner against the Panthers, said the current situation presents "a good opportunity" for Lee. The Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft didn't make the team out of training camp but gets another chance to contribute with the big club.
"Play with some intensity ... he's got to go out and make things happen, and just be solid defensively," Clouston said about what he expects from Lee. "His game hasn't been as consistent as we wanted down (in Binghamton), but that doesn't change things up here. He's just got to go out and play his game. We know he's capable of being a very solid defenceman."
Around the boards
Brian Elliott (2-0-1), who picked up the Florida win in relief of an ailing Leclaire, will get the start again tonight. Leclaire thought he was done battling the flu but asked out of Wednesday's game after the first period because of dizziness. "I thought it was best for the team for me to get out of there," he said. "I had that rocky back-and-forth feeling all the time, so it wasn't smart for me to stay in. I'm a little better today but we'll take it day by day, I guess" ... Campoli's next point will be the 100th of his NHL career. Teammates Alex Kovalev (397) and Milan Michalek (97) are both three goals away from career milestones ... The Senators returns home to face the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday at Scotiabank Place (2 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). It's also a Subway Savings Game, with all regular-priced tickets available at 20 per cent off.