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Kuba's return a power-play boost

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Filip Kuba insists he can't inject some life into the Ottawa Senators' struggling power play all on his own.

But the return to the lineup of the veteran defenceman – who has been sidelined since the season-opener with a nagging lower-body injury – certainly can't do anything but help a specialty unit that is a mere 4-for-35 so far this season. That 11.4 per cent efficiency level ranks 29th among 30 National Hockey League teams.

No wonder, then, that head coach Cory Clouston spent a solid hour working on power-play drills during Monday morning's team practice at Scotiabank Place. Having Kuba working from the point surely brought a smile to everyone's face, even if the Czech blueliner doesn't exactly see him as a saviour of any sort in that area.

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"I don't think it's about one guy playing on the power play," said Kuba, who expects to be back in the lineup when the Senators face off against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla., on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200). "It's the whole unit. I just want to play hockey and it's been tough sitting out and watching the game from the stands."

Still, Clouston believes Kuba can help jump-start the Ottawa power play.

"He'll make a big improvement, just as far as poise, confidence and experience back there," he said. "(Kuba) doesn't have a booming shot, but he's able to get the shot through for the most part. He's also very intelligent as far as reading (the play).

"Just to be able to calm things down back there... I think he'll be important for that."

Clouston also had captain Daniel Alfredsson working from the point in an effort to make further gains in an area he believes has been a problem with the man advantage.

"Right now, we don't have a shot threat," said Clouston. "Guys are squeezing their stick on the back end and it just becomes (a) bigger and bigger (problem). When they do have an opportunity, they've duffed shots and missed nets.

"It'll turn around. But Alfie has some experience on the back end and he does have a very good shot back there. Hopefully, if he does (get shots through), it'll open up some other things. Right now, teams aren't too threatened by our point shots and we have to change that."

Alfredsson welcomes the opportunity to contribute in that area.

"I don't think it's about one guy playing on the power play. It's the whole unit. I just want to play hockey and it's been tough sitting out and watching the game from the stands." - Filip Kuba
"We need to get something going and it could be a good change for us," he said. "I thought we were going in the right direction. Stats-wise, it doesn't look great for us right now but in the last three games, I think we scored a power-play goal in each of them and that was a good sign.

"But the last game (Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins) was not good for us at all."

Added centre Mike Fisher: "We've got to be a little bit more patient, just make sure we're getting pucks to the net. Just simplify things and not try to do too much because we know (the power play) is struggling. We've just got to stick to our strengths and we know it's just a matter of time. We know it's going to come and it's going to get better."

Kuba just wants his absence from the lineup to end. His original "day-to-day" diagnosis has stretched into eight games but he's confident he'll be good to go Wednesday night in Florida.

"It was frustrating for sure. I didn't think it would take this long to come back," said Kuba. "The season is starting for me all over again. I played only one game and that's not enough to build the confidence. I've just got to work on my game and try to get into game shape."

Around the boards

Centre Peter Regin and defenceman Erik Karlsson both missed practice today because of illness ... The Senators complete a quick Florida trip with a Thursday visit to Tampa to take on the Lightning (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for Saturday's matchup with the Atlanta Thrashers at Scotiabank Place. The Halloween matinee (2 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) will feature plenty of spook-tacular happenings, including a costume contest for the kids. It's also a Subway Savings Game, with regular-priced tickets available for 20 per cent off.

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