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Senators finding right balance

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators know they’ll need all hands on deck to achieve the ultimate goal this season.

And, with each passing game, it’s becoming more evident that the Senators’ lineup possesses a scoring prowess that runs much deeper than Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.

Case in point: Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils, in which fourth-liner Shean Donovan netted the game-winner. In fact, the Senators have won their past two games without any goal production from either Heatley or Spezza.

Chris Neil (centre) and Randy Robitaille listen to head coach John Paddock during Senators practice Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.
“I don’t think we win that game (in New Jersey) if our second-, third- and fourth-liners don’t have a real good game,” assistant coach Ron Low said after a spirited Senators workout at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday morning. “That was the first game all year that our No. 1 line wasn’t as good as it likely has to be for us to win.

“But the other guys picked up the slack, which was great.”

Donovan, a former Ottawa 67’s star, has scored in two straight games after being held goal-less through the Senators’ first eight outings of the season.

“It’s always nice to help out,” said Donovan. “This team’s got a lot of firepower. But it’s a long season and we need everybody pitching in, so it’s nice to help out.

“It would be nice to score more often. Sometimes, they seem to come in bunches (for me).”

Head coach John Paddock has had Donovan skating with Randy Robitaille and Dean McAmmond in practice, hinting at the formation of a new fourth line that would be the envy of many a team in the National Hockey League.

“We all know we can play,” said Donovan. “I had my best year in Calgary (18 goals in 2003-04) playing with Dean McAmmond. And I know how good Randy is.

“We’re going to try to contribute as much as we can, so we’re not considered a fourth line.”

They’d all like the chance to contribute a heck of a lot more often. The Senators have only played three games in the last 17 days, and won’t suit up for real again until the Atlanta Thrashers visit Scotiabank Place on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200).

“You definitely want to get back into the groove of things, get a bunch of games going here,” said winger Chris Neil. “Once we do get back, I think we play every other day for awhile, so it’ll be a great opportunity for us to keep things rolling.”

Despite the lack of game action, Low said he’s noticed little in the way of a drop off in the players’ focus and attention to detail. That showed on Saturday, when the Senators turned in a workmanlike but effective performance in beating the Devils.

“When you’ve had so many days off and you want to step it up to that high gear … it’s hard,” said Low. “The games are what we’re looking for now to get into a real competitive environment and keep things going.

“But during a tough period like this, when they’re not playing many games, (the players’ attitude) has been excellent. The work ethic here has been incredible since the beginning of the year.”

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