Nobody questions Dany Heatley's importance to the Ottawa Senators' fortunes on the offensive end of the ice.
But the two-time 50-goal scorer says he’s more than ready to embrace an even bigger role with the team in the season ahead. Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg announced today that when Ottawa opens its season against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at the Globe Arena (2:30 p.m. ET, CBC, Team 1200), Heatley will step on the ice with an “'A”' on his jersey. He joins defenceman Chris Phillips
as one of the team's two alternate captains for the season ahead.
Heatley sees it as a bigger chance to prove his contributions extend far beyond the scoresheet.
"I just think, especially as an offensive guy, you get labelled as poor in other areas — poor defensively and things like that," he said. "That might have been the case early on in my career but I think I’ve learned a lot and improved in the last six years. I just appreciate that they’ve given me that chance to wear a letter and a chance to play in different situations with more responsibility."
It's a role that captain Daniel Alfredsson
believes his linemate will embrace in a major way.
"He’s just grown more comfortable," said Alfredsson, who will wear the captain's “'C”' in Ottawa for a 10th straight season. "(Heatley) knows he’s one of the best goal scorers in the league but he’s taking on a bigger role every year because he knows he’s becoming a better player.
"He’s a guy that puts his time in on the ice. He works hard at getting better and wants to (expand) his game more. He talks about wanting to kill penalties more and contribute in different ways than just scoring goals. It’s just the evolution of a really good player."
Hartsburg admitted he had plenty of candidates to consider for the alternate captain's position previously held by departed defenceman Wade Redden, but saw Heatley as a player ready to take on a bigger leadership role.
"Just (based on) my conversations with Dany over the summer, and observing and watching players from the start of training camp and how they’ve acted or interacted with their teammates and their work habits," said Hartsburg in explaining his choice. "I think Dany will do a great job for us.
"To me, leadership is about how you act on the ice and how you prepare yourself to play. Certainly, there’s times when you have to speak up but it’s more about their actions then what they say. At least that’s the belief I had as a player and a coach -, that you lead by example."Alfredsson's absence 'nothing serious'
Alfredsson and centre Mike Fisher both sat out this afternoon's practice at the Globe Arena. Fisher tweaked his groin during Thursday night's exhibition game against the Frolunda Indians, but Hartsburg isn't yet ruling him out for tomorrow's first of two games against the Penguins. "He actually feels a lot better today and he’s going to try skating tomorrow," said Hartsburg. "It’ll probably be a game-time decision." With Fisher absent, Dean McAmmond — one of the two forward scratches against Frolunda — skated today on a line with Cody Bass and Christoph Schubert. Alfredsson, meanwhile, took a day off to give "some bumps and bruises" a rest. "I'll be ready for tomorrow," he said. "It's nothing serious."Around the boards
Before today's practice, Alfredsson and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk met with 15 youngsters from a local Fryshuset (a YMCA-like organization) this morning. Each was presented with a Sens jersey bearing Alfredsson's name and number, and the captain autographed them all. The meeting was arranged by the Canadian embassy in Stockholm and ambassador Alexandra Volkoff ... The ice at the Globe Arena is four feet shorter than the regulation 200 feet used in NHL games. But nobody seems to think it'll affect play in any major way. "Both teams have to play the game and deal with the same situation, so we’ll deal with it," said Hartsburg.