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Senators coach shaking it up

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
It's back to the drawing board for Craig Hartsburg and the Ottawa Senators.

On the heels of a disappointing 4-1 home-ice loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night, Hartsburg decided a major shuffling of his lines was in order. When the Senators face off against the Devils in Newark, N.J., on Friday night (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200), Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza will find themselves spread across three lines instead of together as one.

While Hartsburg and his coaching staff haven't sorted out exact combinations just yet, he admitted "we have to do something different" to bring an end to his team's struggles at the offensive end of the ice. The Senators have netted just four goals in their last four games and, with a total of 67 in 29 starts to date, are the lowest-scoring team in the National Hockey League.

"Probably the best thing right now is that they all play on different lines," Hartsburg said of his top offensive guns. "They’re three good players in this league and I believe in all three of them. I think all three of them can help a line be better and right now, that’s what we’ve got to look at

"In the past, we’ve always counted on the three of them playing together to carry the team. From what I’ve seen so far, that’s probably not going to happen. Teams check so much better now than they did. We went on the road (last week) and they never had a scoring chance. You can blame them for some of it but you can also look at what the other team does to stop them. We’ve got to change the look of our team."

Alfredsson welcomed the timing of the change, saying "it’s a situation where we’re not working well together right now and we’re not scoring. We should be able to make any line better and it will be a good challenge for everybody. We’ve just got to find a way. "

Added Spezza: "We haven’t scored in the last three or four nights and we’re not winning. I’m sure if we were scoring, (Hartsburg) would keep it the same way.

"We’re willing to try anything right now. We’ve just got to try to make ourselves a better team. We’ve got to find out what works and what works consistently."

Senators general manager Bryan Murray isn't sitting by idly while his team, at 11-13-5, stands 12th in the Eastern Conference, six points out of a playoff position. Murray told reporters today he has been exploring trade options but nothing has materialized yet that could improve the roster.

"I’d like to do something to shake up the team to at least give the players an impression that we’re doing something to make it better for them but at the moment, that (option) doesn’t appear to be available," he said.

Murray still believes he has assembled a group about which he says "I don’t think they’re world beaters every night, but it’s a good enough hockey team to be a contending hockey team." He is as baffled as his coaching staff with their lack of production.

"When you look at some of the guys who have scored in the past, we should have enough weapons," he said. "It is astounding that we don’t score goals in particular. We have that ability and that’s not the coach, that’s not the manager, that’s not the teammate. That’s the player doing to the best of his ability what he's capable of doing."

Hartsburg was most distressed Tuesday night by the Senators' level of work ethic. To hammer that point home, he finished today's practice session by pushing the players through 12 minutes of non-stop skating drills, a move he said wasn't pre-planned.

"What disappoints me most is our work ethic as a team and individually, too," he said. "There are some players who do not work hard enough. They don’t work hard enough to have success individually and that’s what hurts our team. This is a team that has to work.

"We’ll do something with the lines to see if we can make it more of a working a lineup rather than one skilled line that has to carry us and everybody else kind of just plays. We need to have a working mentality from the first line to the fourth line. If we can start with that, then maybe this thing can show some signs of life."

Around the boards

Alfredsson and forwards Chris Neil and Jesse Winchester were given today off to rest some "bumps and bruises" but Hartsburg said all three are expected to line up against the Devils ... Alex Auld (9-7-4) returns between the pipes on Friday ... Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for Saturday's visit by the Dallas Stars (7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200), the Senators' last appearance at Scotiabank Place before the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship takes over the building next week.

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