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Heatley says focus should be on improved play tonight

by Staff Writer / Ottawa Senators
Jason Spezza, who left last night's game in the second period after receiving a hard bodycheck, took part in the pre-game skate this morning and will play tonight. Photo: OSHC

by Todd Anderson

Dany Heatley faces his former team for the second time when the Atlanta Thrashers visit Scotiabank Place tonight. After a team meeting on Thursday morning, the left-winger was asked if he'd have any special motivation tonight.

"Right now we're just worrying more on how we've been in the last three weeks. We're doing things that are costing us games. We have to get out of that. This is a big game."

Linemate Jason Spezza agrees it's time to start limiting mistakes.

"We have to look at ourselves in the mirror. We have to be more accountable for our mistakes. This is a great time to right the ship, before the (Olympic) break."

The other member of the Senators' top line, captain Daniel Alfredsson, said success always comes down to hard work.

"Focus is not our problem. We're just not working hard enough. At times we try to do too much. We want to get back on the winning track and rally around each other. We have to find the efforts we need."

The Senators fell to the Thrashers in the first meeting of the season by an 8-3 score on Jan. 2 in Atlanta. Add that to the fact the Senators fell to the New York Rangers 5-1 last night, coach Bryan Murray is expecting a better effort this evening.

"As a coach you're most proud when your team works hard and plays with discipline. We're not playing at the same level as we were. (The Thrashers) beat us pretty soundly (in Atlanta). I assume we'll pay attention and play well tonight."

What does Murray see in the Atlanta team?

"They have a big young goaltender and some people who can score some goals. They're fighting for a playoff spot. They like to get in on you and finish their checks."

Roster report

Jason Spezza, who left last night's game in the second period after receiving a hard bodycheck, will play tonight. Spezza was asked on his condition this morning.

"I saw (the hit) on television after getting home from the road trip. I didn't realize how wobbly I was (while skating off the ice). I think my mouth guard really helped me out. I was hit on the jaw and the mouth guard absorbed a lot. There's no problem. I'm going to play. I think they just wanted to make sure I was alright."

Coach Murray said, "He told me he was alright after the second period last night. We're very cautious with head injuries now. We weren't playing well enough to keep throwing him back out there anyway."

Meanwhile, the Senators may be without defenceman Chris Phillips tonight with a right thumb sprain. Phillips will be a game-time decision. If he can't play, Christoph Schubert will move back to defence.

The Senators have also called up Brandon Bochenski from their American Hockey League affiliate Binghamton Senators on an emergency basis. Bochenski will fill in for Brian McGrattan (swollen eye).

Dominik Hasek will start in goal tonight.

Barbados night

The theme of the game tonight will be Barbados Night. A ceremonial faceoff will be held prior to the game, featuring Barbados High Commissioner to Canada Glyne Murray.

As part of the festivities, a draw will be held for a trip for two to Barbados, a live band will be playing Bajan music at Gate 1, and there will be a live camera feed from Bert's in Barbados where Senators fans will be watching tonight's game. Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is co-owner of Bert's, a sports bar now dubbed the official headquarters of the Ottawa Senators in the Barbados.

Fred Brathwaite, a former NHL goaltender whose parents have roots in Barbados, will attend tonight's game as the high commissioner's guest. Brathwaite, an Ottawa native, was at Scotiabank Place this morning to watch the Senators during their pre-game skate.

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