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A look at Neil, Emery and Alfredsson

by Staff Writer / Ottawa Senators
Chris Neil (left), Ray Emery and Daniel Alfredsson

Neil looking to contribute any way possible

Chris Neil's pass, which resulted in a Bryan Smolinski goal Thursday night, ignited a four-goal third-period eruption by the Sens during a 4-1 win over the visiting Florida Panthers.

The cross-ice feed, which found Smolinski all alone for a tap-in goal past Roberto Luongo, was a major turning point in the game. Prior to the tally, the Sens were struggling to find a way to solve one of the league's best goaltenders.

Heading into this season, the gritty forward had 24 goals, 43 points and 572 penalty minutes in 222 career games. This season Neil already has seven goals, 12 points and 42 penalty minutes in just 17 games.

"It's about ice time," Neil answers when asked for reasoning behind this year's success. "When I'm out there I try and hit guys and punish them that way. I want the defencemen to know when I'm on the ice. I still stick up for my teammates but it helps to have (Brian McGrattan) doing that, too."

Coach Bryan Murray likes what the four-year veteran is bringing to the team this season.

"He's playing really well for us. Every day he gets a touch better. He's getting rewarded by getting back on the power play."

Neil says he has enjoyed lining up with centreman Smolinski and left-winger Mike Fisher thus far.

"Mike's a workhorse and so am I. That's what got us both to the NHL. Smoke reads the play very well. He's a gifted player."

And what was Neiler, as his teammates call him, thinking prior to feeding Smolinski with the pass Thursday night?

"I saw him breaking to the net just when I got over the blueline. Mike was calling for a drop pass but I thought my man was in the way. I threw it over and Bryan put it in. It was perfect. I didn't see who was coming back on (Smolinski) but he was pretty wide open."

Emery looks to improve on 7-0-0 career record

Ray Emery has yet to lose in seven career NHL games over three seasons. He wants that trend to continue Saturday night as he is scheduled to start in goal against the New Jersey Devils (Corel Centre, 7 p.m.).

The rookie has expressed excitement heading into every game of his young career so far. Saturday night is no different.

"(The Devils) have been a good team for a number of years. That will be a big day for me. I hope I can get two points for the team."

Emery says being able to start his career with a talent-rich team like the Senators has been very beneficial.

"It's great as a confidence builder to enjoy success early in your career. It eases the tension. I appreciate the fact that we have so much firepower here."

Alfredsson early season MVP?

Coach Bryan Murray was asked Friday morning if his captain, Daniel Alfredsson, is the best player in hockey today.

"He's playing very well right now, and I'm not sure he's ever played better in his career. Five-on-three, he's our lead guy. He kills penalties. He's a real character on this team. He's an outstanding two-way player. He's a great demonstration -- leadership and effort-wise. The guy has to be a leading candidate for MVP at this point."

Alfredsson led the NHL, as of Friday, with 34 points in 17 games played. The 10-year veteran was asked to analyze his success this season.

"It's fun because we're winning. When you're winning, individual stuff comes with it. We're just enjoying it. We're having fun in practice and playing with lots of energy."

And does he think his efforts in the defensive aspect of the game are over-looked?

"Definitely, but that's a part of the game that is over-looked. It's natural for offence to get the headlines."

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