OTTAWA - Chris Neil was often singled out during the Ottawa Senators' disappointing season a year ago for spending too much time in the penalty box and too little contributing on the ice.
If Wednesday night is any indication, Neil won't be making the same mistake this year under new coach Craig Hartsburg. The Senators' tough guy scored a pair of goals and Ottawa went on to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 in NHL exhibition play.
"It's definitely nice to feel like you contribute out there," said Neil, who scored on the power play in the first period and added another marker in the third before a crowd of 17,038 at Scotiabank Place.
Neither goal was pretty, but they were effective. On both, he set up shop in front of the Flyers' net and stuffed a rebound past Philadelphia starter J.S. Aubin on the first, then re-directed another past Aubin's third-period replacement, Maxime Ouellet.
"We did a good job of getting pucks to the net and getting traffic there and that's one thing that Craig really wants," Neil said.
Also getting on the scoreboard for Ottawa (2-1-0) was rookie Jesse Winchester, who's been given an early chance to shine in camp by taking up the right-wing position on the Senators' top line along with centre Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.
He scored his first goal of the pre-season in the second period and it proved to be the eventual winner.
"He keeps getting better and better," Hartsburg said. "He looks more and more comfortable and does a lot of little things right, that I know coaches love. For a first-year player in a National Hockey League training camp, he's looked real good."
Daniel Alfredsson, who's been bothered in camp by a groin/hip strain, made his exhibition debut for Ottawa. Martin Gerber needed to make just 10 saves to win for the second time in the pre-season, giving up the lone Flyers' goal to Darroll Powe.
Powe's goal came on Philadelphia's only shot of the first period after Senators defenceman Brendan Bell, who's fighting to make Ottawa's roster, didn't do himself any favours when he put a breakout pass right on the tape of Powe's stick in the neutral zone. The Flyers' prospect wired a shot past Gerber to give Philadelphia a lead just more than seven minutes in before Neil tied it.
Neil even found time to throw some hits and dropped the gloves with Flyers tough guy Arron Asham and overall made a strong case for inclusion on the Senators' third line rather than starting the season on the fourth.
"I'm not really concerned about that," he said. "The biggest thing in this dressing (room) is that we want to win. We've got a good group of guys and if everyone comes every night ready to work, we're all going to play."
Aubin gave up two goals on 23 shots through the opening two periods and took the loss for the Flyers (1-1-0). Ouellet made 10 saves in a period of play.
Earlier in the day, the Senators trimmed seven players from their training camp roster. Goaltender Jeff Glass, defenceman Mattias Karlsson and forwards Danny Bois, Josh Hennessy, Alexander Nikulin, Ryan Shannon and Ilya Zubov.