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Lapointe fills a need for Senators

by John McGourty

The Ottawa Senators acquired Martin Lapointe from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Martin Lapointe
The Ottawa Senators filled a need for toughness on the third line Tuesday by acquiring veteran right winger Martin Lapointe from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft.

Ottawa's third-line right winger, Chris Neil, left last Thursday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a 3-2 shootout loss at home, with a knee injury. He missed the next two games and no announcement has been made regarding a diagnosis and whether he'll be able to return this season.

The acquisition of Lapointe gives the Senators one of the strongest corps of right wingers in the NHL. He'll join Daniel Alfredsson, Cory Stillman, Shean Donovan and Brian McGrattan on the right side.

Lapointe, 34, is the classic "energy line" player, a strong, feisty type who skates hard, checks hard and keeps pushing his teammates to greater exertion. He has a history of success. Lapointe led the Laval Titan to the 1993 Memorial Cup semifinal, won a Calder Cup with the Adirondack Red Wings and two Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, for whom he played from 1993-2001. After signing a lucrative free-agent contract, Lapointe played three seasons with the Boston Bruins, 2001-2004, the only three seasons in the past seven that the Bruins made the playoffs.

Lapointe has played the past three seasons with the Blackhawks. He has three goals and four assists for seven points and is minus-3 in 52 games. He missed seven games last month with a bruised kidney.

Lapointe has 178 goals and 197 assists for 375 points and is minus-38 in 973 NHL games over 16 seasons. In 104 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Red Wings and Bruins, Lapointe has 19 goals and 24 assists for 42 points and is plus-6.

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Lapointe has made an interesting transition in his career. He was a good scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he was a three-time All Star, rookie of the year and was named to the Memorial Cup All-Star team. No such honors have been bestowed upon him in the NHL because he was transformed in Detroit into a defensive pest who specializes in takeaways and transitions.

There are similarities between Lapointe and the slightly taller Neil. Both men weigh about 215 pounds but Lapointe is two inches shorter at 5-foot-11. Lapointe has averaged 14 goals and 13 assists over the past three seasons while Neil has averaged 11 goals and 15 assists.

Lapointe has been a very durable and reliable player over his career, one capable of playing with injuries that shut down others. A bout with the flu in mid-January ended his streak of 254 consecutive-games played, 209 for the Blackhawks. He came back from the illness and suffered the kidney bruise.

Lapointe's "intangibles," including his vocal leadership, feisty play, hard forechecks, big checks, standing up for teammates and full-speed-ahead game, will be appreciated by his teammates and the Ottawa fans.

The Ottawa dressing room needed a bit of a shakeup in the wake of Monday's stunning 5-0 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators have led the Northeast Division all season but they are 4-4-2 in their past 10 games. The Senators have only a three-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens, who have gone 5-5 in that time.

Ottawa hasn't had a sixth-round pick make it to the NHL since Brooks Laich in 2001. Laich played in only one game for Ottawa before being traded to the Washington Capitals. In fact, Ottawa usually trades the pick, as they have done this year. It came back to haunt them in 2002 when Tampa Bay acquired the pick and chose defenseman Paul Ranger.


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