Even when the goals stopped going in for a spell, Dany Heatley wouldn’t allow himself to sink into a funk.
And now that he’s as hot as just about anyone in the National Hockey League these days, the Ottawa Senators’ two-time 50-goal man isn’t about to let his emotions go too far overboard the other way.
The NHL’s top guns, you see, always know it’s only a matter of time.
“If you’re not scoring, people look at you and wonder why you’re not scoring,” Heatley said after a Monday morning practice at Scotiabank Place. “I just boil it down to shots and chances. Sometimes it goes in and sometimes it doesn’t, and I kind of live by that rule all the time.”
Lately, though, the pendulum has definitely swung Heatley’s way. With a pair of goals in Saturday night’s 7-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers, Heatley became the first Senators player to count at least two goals in three consecutive games. His second goal was the 200th of his NHL career, 120 of them coming in an Ottawa uniform.
The spurt has put Heatley back on pace for a third straight 50-goal season. But ask him what’s changed during his recent torrid stretch, and the answer comes quickly.
“Nothing special. I don’t really worry if I haven’t scored for a few (games), if I’m getting chances,” said Heatley, who endured a six-game goal-less streak in mid-November. “I don’t think I’ve had any more glorious chances the past three games than I did maybe the week before. But if you make a couple of good shots and have a couple of deflections of (defencemen’s) sticks, you get a few goals. It’s all just chances and generating offence.”
That being said, Senators head coach John Paddock agreed that Heatley – who leads the NHL with a plus-27 rating – is “playing extremely well right now.”
It isn’t exactly a coincidence, either, that the Senators’ current five-game winning streak has mirrored a jump in production from Heatley and his lead “dish man,” Jason Spezza
, who tops the NHL with 30 assists. Heatley has six goals and two assists in the past five games; Spezza has collected four goals and seven assists, including his 200th career helper on Saturday night.
“We’ve just got to get (Heatley) the puck,” Spezza said after Saturday’s win. “We expect him to score goals and when he goes a game or two without getting one, we don’t get too worried. We know he’s going to score consistently.”
The duo figures to get a big test on Tuesday night, when the Senators face the Bruins and former teammate Zdeno Chara at TD BankNorth Garden in Boston (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). The Bruins have been the biggest early season surprise in the Eastern Conference, building an 18-11-3 record that has them only six points back of the conference-leading Senators (21-7-3).
“It’ll be a real big challenge for them (Tuesday) night,” said Paddock. “They’ve never had a lot of success against Zee even strength. And we’re playing a Boston team that’s been playing well defensively.”
The Senators departed for a two-game mini road trip – they’re also in Atlanta on Thursday – without centre Mike Fisher, who’s sidelined with a strained oblique muscle he suffered on Saturday night. They’re also still without forward Patrick Eaves (separated shoulder) and defenceman Anton Volchenkov (broken finger).
But Fisher, who is hopeful he can get back on the ice “in a few days,” doesn’t doubt his teammates can push forward without him.
“We’ve got a pretty deep lineup,” he said. “We went through this last year with a couple of guys out and we battled through the injuries. We’ll be fine.”
Defenceman Andrej Meszaros left practice early Monday with a bruised foot, but Paddock expects the blueliner to be in the lineup against the Bruins.
Martin Gerber will make a third straight start in the Senators net.