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Phillips eager for a fresh start

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
He is now the senior spokesman for the Ottawa Senators blue-line brigade.

But as Chris Phillips embarks into an 11th National Hockey League season in Senators colours, he sees a wealth of new faces around him. A level of change the likes of which he perhaps hasn’t experienced since making his Ottawa debut in 1997.

“It’s definitely a part of the game now,” Phillips said as he pondered the roster turnover the Senators have gone through after an unsatisfying 2007-08 season that ended with first-round playoff elimination by the Pittsburgh Penguins. “With the (salary) cap and free agency, you’re going to see lots of turnover. But with the way we finished off last year… certainly, we don’t want that to happen again.

“We’re going to try to do things for the better and we’re going to do our best to make that happen.”

With Wade Redden having moved on to the New York Rangers in free agency, Phillips ranks No. 2 on the Senators roster in seniority behind captain Daniel Alfredsson. He said such longevity with one franchise is “becoming a rarity in this game.”

“But we move on in life without (Redden) and just look to the future and do as much as we can,” said Phillips, who attended his longtime teammate’s wedding in British Columbia in July.

While every NHLer enjoys the summer break, Phillips made it clear the Senators want their off-season to be much shorter next year.

“(Summer) was definitely a lot longer than what we were hoping for, especially after the start of last season and even right up to November, December,” he said. “We had a great start and we were looking for big things. The way it ended was very disappointing, and we’ve had a long summer to think about that.

“Hopefully, we’ll get everyone excited about not letting that happen again.”

They’ll do it with a roster that includes free-agent additions Jason Smith, Jarkko Ruutu and goaltender Alex Auld and a likely injection of youth from Brian Lee, Nick Foligno, Cody Bass and Jesse Winchester.

“I’m excited,” Phillips said about the season ahead. “All the changes the team made (were done) to make the team better. Now it’s up to the players to go out and do that and show that we want it.”

Phillips has been among a growing group of players on the ice daily at the Bell Sensplex, gearing up for a return to action. It’s an anxious time for one and all.

“Now we’re skating, guys are starting to roll into town,” Phillips said with an eye toward a new season. “That just flows into training camp (which opens Sept. 16). The start of the season is a little ways away but you can start to feel it coming here.”

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