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'Anxious' moments for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Defenceman Filip Kuba remains "optimistic" he and the Senators can work out a new contract in advance of Wednesday's NHL trade deadline (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images).
As the clock ticks ever closer to the big day, the anxiety grows in several corners of the Ottawa Senators dressing room.

The National Hockey League's trading deadline is just over 48 hours away, yet the Senators are striving to keep their focus on the job at hand – most specifically, Tuesday night's matchup with the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Needless to say, it isn't easy as the buzz builds toward the deadline.

"It is (a distraction), no question," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "You never know what's going to happen or could happen ... It's a nervous time for players and wives, as well."

Added forward Antoine Vermette: "It's a distraction, but you still have to play the game."

Senators head coach Cory Clouston can feel the tension growing around his team.

"There are definitely a few anxious moments right now," he said. "There's a few guys having some restless nights. It's not an easy thing. Personally, I've never gone through that, so I couldn't imagine how tough it is. (Players) have families, they have friends and you hear rumours. It's the talk in the dressing room."

The deadline rests heaviest on the shoulders of Senators general manager Bryan Murray, who usually finds himself trying to add parts to his roster for a playoff push. This year, with his team standing 12th in the Eastern Conference and 14 points shy of a playoff berth with only 21 games to play, it's a much different story.

"It's quite different and I hope it doesn't happen again," he said. "Certainly, you don't like to be in the position we're in. Being the guy getting the calls from managers is quite different than making the calls to get a player."

Murray continues to meet with representatives for forward Chris Neil and defenceman Filip Kuba, hoping to get new contracts in place with them before Wednesday. Both players are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and Murray indicated earlier that he didn't want to lose either for nothing, meaning he would entertain trade offers for the duo if negotiations aren't fruitful in the next few days.

"They're the two biggest decisions I have to make budget-wise," said Murray, who expects the calls to heat up over the next two days. "I think and believe that, whether it be today or tomorrow, the real offers will start to be made and the real discussions will take place."

Neil and Kuba both remain hopeful they can stay with the Senators, a sentiment the latter reiterated earlier today.

"I'm optimistic," said Kuba. "There are still talks going on and I would like to stay here."

Meanwhile, with a game to play against the Flames before then, Clouston made a minor shift with his top two lines in practice today. Ryan Shannon has been moved alongside Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, while Alfredsson joins Mike Fisher and Nick Foligno with the No. 2 group.

"It is (a distraction), no question. You never know what's going to happen or could happen ... It's a nervous time for players and wives, as well." - Daniel Alfredsson
"A lot of it has to do with who we're playing tomorrow and how we want to match lines with them," said Clouston, who acknowledged making the same adjustment for a different reason during Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. "We had no jump in the first (period). We wanted to create a balanced attack. We wanted to make sure we had at least one guy who we felt was generating some energy and had some intensity on each line."

Alfredsson said he believes his line will be the one matched up against the Flames' red-hot combination of Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri and Craig Conroy.

"I've always liked playing with Fish," he said. "It's a little bit more of a forechecking, grinding style of game (for me) than playing with Heatley and Spezza... Maybe I can bring a little more offence to Fisher's line and balance it out a little bit more."

Around the boards

Clouston termed defenceman Alex Picard's status as "doubtful" for Tuesday night's matchup with the Flames. He suffered a lower-body injury during the first period Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs and didn't return to the game ... Alfredsson expects he'll need to wear the extra shield protecting his fractured jaw for at least another two weeks. "It's getting a lot better," he said of the injury, which doctors originally told him would take four weeks to completely heal. "I can start to eat more foods, which is fun. And I don't have the pain that I had the first week." ... Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for the game against the Flames, while 3,500 are left for Thursday's visit by the Edmonton Oilers (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).

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