|Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Phillips is enjoying a career season, on both sides of the puck.|
by Todd Anderson
Named an alternate captain at the beginning of the season, Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Phillips has relished his new role. While Phillips and his blueline partner Anton Volchenkov have met expectations while holding off some of the NHL's top lines match after match, Phillips has also added a new dimension to his game. Last night the eight-year veteran recorded his career-high eighth goal of the season, and he's just four points shy of his career high of 23 points set in 2003-04.
"It feels good to score, there's no doubt about that," Phillips told a swarm of reporters today after practice. "It's kind of a bonus. My responsibility is to help shut down the other team's top line and play defensively. I'm happy to contribute in other ways if I can."
Seven of Phillips' eight goals have come at even strength, while the eighth was scored while short-handed. Three of his tallies have been game-winners, one coming in overtime; four have opened the scoring of a game; and six have been against division opponents. In other words, most of Phillips' goals have been big ones.
"I just want to help this team any way I can," Phillips says. "I wouldn't say I've strived to be more offensive. I'm just shooting the puck more when I get the opportunity. I try to get back on the puck quicker and get up in the rush a bit earlier so I give myself as much time as possible to get the puck."
Wade Redden has been impressed with his teammate's progression.
"He's moving the puck real well, he's getting breakaways, he's scoring some nice goals for us. This year he's really getting a chance to play more, kill penalties and be a dominant guy."
Despite facing the other team's top lines, Phillips still boasts the Senators' fifth-best plus-minus rating of +16. He's also played a big part in Ottawa's ranking as one of the best penalty-killing teams in the league. Senators head coach Bryan Murray appreciates Phillips' efforts on the blueline.
"He's been very good for us and not only when he's scored points. (Phillips and Volchenkov) are two of the main reasons we have been able to play so well defensively. After 10 to 12 games together, they seemed to fit in and just got better. No question, chemistry is an important thing, and they found it fairly early on."
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson also respects what the duo contributes to the club.
"They're up to the challenge every night. They probably have the toughest job on the team: to shut down the other team's top line every game."