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Donovan moving on up

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
He's an energy guy who provides a spark just about every time he's on the ice.

Looks like Shean Donovan is going to get a chance to provide even more of what he does best for the Ottawa Senators when they face off against the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).

The veteran forward, a fourth-liner for most of the season to date, skated alongside Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette during the Senators practice session earlier today at the Bell Sensplex. Chris Kelly, meanwhile, teamed up with Nick Foligno and Jesse Winchester.

"(Donovan) has brought a lot of energy to us in the last couple of weeks," said Hartsburg. "We've had some injuries and we move people up because of that. He was a guy that stepped up and played extremely well for us.

"We like the way he skates and works. If he can continue to do that, he hopefully brings some of the other players along with him in that work habit."

Donovan, a former Ottawa 67's star, is excited about the opportunity to play a more prominent role as the Senators try to rebound from Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Isles. He's missed the last two games with an upper body injury but wouldn't miss this chance for the world.

"When you get a chance like that, you want to jump all over it," he said. "It's hard to say no and sit out a game when you get a chance like that. I'm excited and it's going to be very hard to sit out tomorrow night. I don't plan on it.

No matter where he's playing, Donovan knows exactly what his role will be.

"You've got to go out there and work hard to earn your ice time," he said. "I think every fourth-liner in the league wants that. First-liners are looking for more ice, too. It's everybody and we're all competitive, we all want to help more.

"The biggest thing is winning. You want to be as big a part of that as you can be."

Fisher sees the potential for a trio that can make things happen on the ice.

"Dono (had been) playing really well before he got hurt a couple of games ago," he said. "He skates, he's great with the cycle and plays with a lot of energy. With (Vermette) out there, too, he's got some speed and I think we can use that."

The Senators still will be without two key components up front when they face the Thrashers. Dean McAmmond, who's been battling a sore throat, didn't practise today and won't suit up on Wednesday. While Chris Neil took part in his first full practice since undergoing knee surgery Nov. 21, he's still not game ready yet.

However, Neil didn't rule out a possible return on Saturday, when the Senators face the Pittsburgh Penguins at Scotiabank Place (2 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

"It was good to be out there with the guys and it was a little motivation. It was a big step," said Neil. "There's a chance (for Wednesday), but I'd probably think Saturday if everything goes well."

"Originally, (the prognosis) was four to six weeks, so I'm definitely ahead of the game. If everything keeps going the same way, anything is a possibility."

Around the boards

Alex Auld (7-6-3) will make his ninth straight start in goal for the Senators on Wednesday night ... Defenceman Alex Picard (wrist) went through a full practice today and Hartsburg said "there's a good chance" he'll be ready to face the Thrashers. "I talked to him after (practice) and he said he feels pretty good," said Hartsburg. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow." ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for Wednesday's game, while 800 are left for Saturday's visit by the Penguins.

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