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Senators duo picking up pace

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward Dany Heatley, showing stretching with his teammates near the end of practice today at Scotiabank Place, has racked up eight goals in his past seven games.

Team success often breeds better numbers for individuals, too.

So it's not exactly a coincidence that as the Ottawa Senators enjoy their best 10-game run of success this season (6-2-2), a few of their players are fattening up their scoring numbers as well. Especially given that fact the Senators have pumped home 32 goals during that recent run, nearly a full goal higher than their season per-game average (2.51).

"We've been playing better as a team and usually, the individual will get some (benefits) out of that," said Senators forward Antoine Vermette, who's racked up nine points in his past seven games (two goals, seven assists). "As a team, we feel more comfortable as well and it's th same thing for me."

Nobody is on a hotter roll than forward Dany Heatley. He's totalled eight goals in the past seven games, boosting his season total to 30 for the fifth time in his seven-year National Hockey League career. Heatley also considers himself a beneficiary of the Senators' recent success as a group.

"As a team, we're playing better and I'm shooting the puck a lot more than I had been earlier in the year," he said after the Senators' practice session at Scotiabank Place earlier today. "I think because of that, more pucks are going in."

Head coach Cory Clouston also believes Heatley is making better use of his 6-foot-4, 221-pound frame to generate more scoring chances.

"As a team, we're playing better and I'm shooting the puck a lot more than I had been earlier in the year. I think because of that, more pucks are going in." - Dany Heatley
"(Heatley) has been a lot more of a physical presence out there at both ends of the ice," said Clouston. "He's been strong down low and strong in front of the net. He's getting not only the goal scorer's goals but he's creating some offence by just jamming the net.

"He scored a goal in Montreal (on Saturday) by just being on top of the crease. He's just using his size and strength to his advantage."

His recent streak has already begun to fuel talk that Heatley might be able to take a run at a third career 50-goal season. He'd need 20 goals in the Senators' final 23 games to get there.

"It's a longshot, no question, with the amount of games we have left," admitted Heatley. "But the way things are going now, you never know."

Neil making progress toward return

Senators forward Chris Neil skated on his own before practice today, a key step in his recovery from the lacerated right calf he suffered Feb. 7 against the Buffalo Sabres. But Neil, who's missed eight games, believes he's still at least a week away from returning to action.

"It feels a lot better. It's been getting stronger every day," he said. "But it's not just my calf, it's everything else as well. You've got to get all the muscles firing again.

"I haven't even skated with the team yet – that’s a week away – and the way the games are (scheduled now) every other night, it's just go, go, go. I could come in tomorrow, I could feel great and be bouncing off the walls. But the way it's feeling so far, it still needs time to heal a bit. It was a pretty deep gash."

Around the boards

Defenceman Chris Phillips, who battled a flu bug throughout Tuesday's win over the Carolina Hurricanes, didn't practise today. But Clouston expects he'll be available on Thursday, when the Senators face off against the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). "He feels a lot better but he's lost a few pounds," said Clouston. "He's be fine for tomorrow. If there was a game today, he'd be playing." ... Fewer than 2,000 tickets remain for tomorrow's game, the second of Ottawa's current eight-game homestand ... The Sharks, who are in Detroit tonight for a huge showdown with the Red Wings, last played at Scotiabank Place on Jan. 12, 2006, posting a 2-0 win.

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