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Northeast: Phillips says short summer was too long

by James Murphy /

Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips is eager to put the loss to Anaheim in last year's Stanley Cup Final behind him.
A trip to the Stanley Cup Final results in a shortened summer. That’s not a problem if you win the Cup, but is just another painful reminder for those who came up short.

Ottawa’s Chris Phillips isn’t complaining about his team’s short summer. After the disappointment of losing to the Anaheim Ducks last June, Phillips can’t wait to get started.

“It was a shortened summer, but not short enough,” Phillips said recently. “What we went through in that run and to have it all come to a halt like that, I want to get right back to it and get there again.”

For Phillips, the memories of watching the Ducks celebrate their Stanley Cup clinching win after Game 5 in Anaheim are still fresh in his mind. The veteran defenseman truly believes the Senators could have been the ones celebrating, so he couldn’t wait to get into camp and get the season going.

“You hear and see all the stories about that and, yeah, you wonder what could’ve been, but you also start to move on and think about what can be,” Phillips said. “When you get to the Final and go through what we did, you just want to do it again.”

Many of the same players who joined Phillips on that magical run last spring are still around and Phillips thinks that will really help the Senators as the season gets under way.


“We lost a few guys, but basically it’s the same group and that will help a lot,” Phillips said. “We all went through that together and I think you really form an even stronger chemistry when you experience something like that. We all have the same goal at the beginning of the season and when you get so close to it, you do that by working as one.

”Of course, every season is new and we want to move on, but to share that experience with essentially the same group of guys that you’re going to play with now will help us get back there. It was just a great experience and I think we all learned what it takes to get there.”

As the East’s defending champs, Phillips also realizes Ottawa has no margin for error.

“Every team is going to be gunning for us so we have to raise our level of play even more, and we can’t take nights off,” he said.

While there wasn’t a significant amount of turnover with Ottawa’s roster, there was a change behind the bench with promotion of John Paddock, who served under Bryan Murray last season before Murray became general manager this off-season. While Paddock is sure to tweak the systems used on the ice a bit, Phillips sees a minimal transition period since the players are used to his practice habits.

“I think just as it was good to have the same core back, it was good to bring a familiar face in to replace Bryan,” Phillips said. “It’s definitely been an easy transition so far and we’re familiar with his systems, so that helps to continue what we did last season.”

So when the Senators take to the ice at the Air Canada Centre for their season opener against the Maple Leafs on Oct. 3, they will have a better idea of what it takes to win the Stanley Cup and an even stronger desire to actually hoist it.

“We’ve got the nucleus back and we all know what it takes,” Phillips said. “We all share that burning feeling we had last spring.”

Neely named Bruins’ VP -- Tuesday, the Boston Bruins hired Hall of Famer Cam Neely as their new vice president. Neely, who had been serving as the club’s ambassador, will counsel Bruins Executive Vice President Charlie Jacobs on club matters and will lend a helping hand to General Manager Peter Chiarelli with advice and player personnel matters.

Neely was one of the fiercest competitors to ever lace up the skates for the Bruins, and in a press conference announcing his hiring, he admitted that a fire has been burning in him watching the Bruins struggle since his retirement in 1996.

“Quite frankly, I’m not really happy with what’s gone on,” Neely said. “I’d like to be able to help and try to get things back on track.”

The Bruins also announced that they will host “Willie O'Ree Night” on Jan. 19, 2008 to honor the 50th anniversary of O'Ree breaking the color barrier in the NHL. On Jan. 18, 1958, O’Ree became the first black player to participate in a regular season NHL game. He would play two games with Boston that season and then 43 more in the 1960-61 season.

Numminen on the mend -- Buffalo Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen is recovering from successful open heart surgery and will be out until at least December. Numminen, who has had a heart murmur since childhood and was diagnosed with a dilated aorta in 2004 wile playing for the Dallas Stars, went into surgery last week because of a faulty valve.

While the Sabres will miss Numminen on the ice, they’re just happy that the surgery was a success and that their teammate and friend is recovering from what Numminen himself claimed could be a “fatal” condition if the surgery wasn’t done.

“All we can do now is wait for him to get better and show up,” defenseman Toni Lydman told the Buffalo News. “I guess he’s going to take some time to think about. Whatever his decision, I think he’s going to make the right one. He’s a smart guy. Like I said, I just want to see him healthy again.”

Get well Teppo!

Injury bug bites Leafs - After being decimated by injuries last season, the Maple Leafs are already being hit by the injury bug again. On Saturday, Toronto announced that center Kyle Wellwood will be sidelined indefinitely after surgery to repair a sports hernia.

Last season, Wellwood was hampered by the same injury and missed 33 consecutive games following a similar surgery on Jan. 24. He returned to the Maple Leafs lineup on March 10 and played the final 11 games to close out the 2006-07 regular season and also played the first preseason game this month. Wellwood recorded 42 points in 48 games for Toronto last season.

Maple Leafs' center Kyle Wellwood will miss a significant amount of time while recovering from a second sports hernia operation.
Maple Leafs General Manager John Ferguson was obviously disappointed that Wellwood will start the season on the shelf, but he believes getting the surgery done now was the safer choice.

“We feel it was the right thing to do right now for Kyle and the team,” Ferguson told “We didn’t want to take the chance it could get worse during the season and have him miss more time then.”

Ferguson also sees this as another opportunity for some of the team’s other young players to step up and prove they’re ready.

“I can name two or three young players right now that are going to relish this situation to prove they can play bigger roles; (Alex) Steen, (John) Pohl and (Matt) Stajan will be given additional ice time and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens,” Ferguson said.

On Tuesday, coach Paul Maurice also acknowledged that defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo is also suffering from a nagging injury. Colaiacovo had surgery on his right knee last spring and apparently the same knee has been acting up on him again.

“We're trying to strengthen this leg as hard as we can,” Maurice told the Toronto Star Tuesday. “I think he's fine. We could play him. But we don't really need to see him in an exhibition game.”

Sens hurting -- The Senators also are playing it safe with some of their key players as well. Defenseman Wade Redden has been hampered by a stiff back and was questionable for Tuesday’s pre-season game with the Flyers, while center Mike Fisher was pondering skipping the remainder of the pre-season to let his sore groin heal. Goaltender Mike Emery, who has been recovering from off-season wrist surgery, was expected to play his first exhibition game last night.

Lorentz retires -- Longtime Buffalo Sabres color commentator Jim Lorentz announced his retirement Tuesday. Lorentz has been a fixture in the broadcast booth, helping to call Sabres games for 26 years. He also played seven seasons in Buffalo.

“My long association with the Buffalo Sabres was nothing but positive and I was fortunate to retire from the game as a player but be able to stay involved as a broadcaster," said Lorentz said in a press release. “I was blessed to work with two of the best play-by-play men of all-time in Ted Darling and Rick Jeanneret. This was a tough decision to make, but after 43 years of travel as a player and broadcaster, I based my decision on the unwillingness to tackle another long season and grueling travel schedule.”

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