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Hartsburg, Sens begin new quest

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
A new day dawned for the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.

For Craig Hartsburg, it means the time is finally at hand to begin molding the type of team he’d like to bring to the rink with him each and every night.

“The biggest thing for us is, we have to build an identity and that starts today,” the new Senators coach said on a day in which players reported for medicals and physical testing, signalling the start of training camp for the 2008-09 season. “We like the pieces that are here, the depth that we have. But on paper, it doesn’t matter.

"It’s about the identity that we build and how quickly we build it.”

Centre Mike Fisher believes the Senators will be a tougher team to play against if new head coach Craig Hartsburg has his way (Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
In Hartsburg’s mind, that process will need to start quickly. The Senators have just three days of practices before opening their pre-season against the New York Rangers on Saturday at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers TV, Team 1200) – the first of five exhibition games in eight days. Hartsburg believes those games will go a long way toward paring down the 53 players now in camp to the roster that boards the plane Sept. 28 for the Senators’ season-opening trip to Sweden.

“Exhibition games will play a big part of it,” he said. “Those spots and those players fighting for those spots will get an opportunity in the exhibition games to show it.”

When the Senators arrived for training camp a year ago – fresh off an appearance in the Stanley Cup final – it was widely acknowledged that the roster was all but set. Not quite so this season, with a number of newcomers on board via trades and free agency, and several young talents eager to push hard for a place on this team.

“It’s much deeper,” said Senators general manager Bryan Murray. “It should be more competitive (in training camp). We always say, pretty much because of contract situations, that the team is already selected. But I think it’s more open this year than I’ve seen in awhile.”

Though they haven’t gone through their first on-ice session with Hartsburg, several Senators veterans know what the new coach has in mind. And they’re excited about the possibilities.

“We know what it’s going to be, and that’s a hard-working team that doesn’t back down from anything,” said centre Mike Fisher. “We’re going to be tough to play against and we want to compete every night. If we do that, we know we’ve got a lot of skill we can combine that with, so if we play an all-around solid game … that’s what we need to do to win.”

Added forward Dany Heatley: “I think the communication lines are going to be real good between (Hartsburg) and the players. We’re going to have an identity and a plan for the year. Everyone is going to know what’s expected from them for the year and you’ve got to do your job, whatever that may be.”

Hartsburg hopes to quickly instill the kind of “all for one” mentality that he believes is the biggest key to successful hockey.

“We’ve got some great players but now it’s about being a good team,” he said. “We want to be a team that plays with character and discipline and a relentless work ethic that plays together.
“The guys that Bryan has brought in, they’re known as character players. They play hard, they play for their team and sacrifice for the team, and I think that’s important.”

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