After a day off to celebrate the holiday season with their families, the Ottawa Senators were back on Corel Centre ice for practice on Tuesday morning.
The skate kicked off with a bit of fun as players were instructed by coach Bryan Murray to switch sticks with a teammate, who shoots with the opposite hand, before the players took part in a scrimmage. After that, it was down to business.
As usual, time was spent on the power play, an area of the game that has been working out well for the Senators lately. According to Murray, a big part of the success while playing with the man advantage is the improved play from the defence.
"Every day in practice we end one of the drills with point shots. We encourage our defencemen to get involved. Obviously we have some pretty good shooters back there. Earlier on we were getting a lot of shots blocked. Now we're more mobile and we're getting shots through."
In the past five games the Senators defencemen have accumulated seven goals and 26 points. Part of the jump in production from the back end can be attributed to Wade Redden's return to the lineup. He's not the only one contributing however.
"With Redden back now we have a real compliment of players who can pass the puck well," Murray said. "He's really helped the power play and our offensive game since he's come back."
The power play has rolled at 41 per cent in the past five games, producing 14 goals in 34 opportunities.
"To me, the real key thing is making the pass where the top man can't get in the lane to block a shot," Murray said. "We're been doing that very well."
Redden returned to the Senators lineup on Dec. 17 against Toronto after a stay on the injured list with a sprained knee. He spoke about his return.
"Overall, I feel pretty good and I'm happy with (the knee). The game vs Toronto was a good game to get back (Ottawa won 8-2). It was a game that was going our way."
Spezza day to day
Centre Jason Spezza had a quick, light skate on Tuesday after his teammates left the ice after practice. Before going out on the ice, he spoke about the status of his pulled chest muscle injury.
"It's slowly getting better and it's day to day. Missing games is always frustrating, but the most important thing is to let it heal properly."
Murray doesn't expect Spezza to play against Carolina on Wednesday.
"I hope in the next couple of days he notices a big difference. I can't imagine he'd play (against Carolina)."
Spezza has missed three Senators' matches since suffering the injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 20.
Chris Neil also missed practice on Tuesday with the stomach flu. Martin Havlat and Brandon Bochenski remain on injured reserve with shoulder injuries.
Chris Kelly rewarded for efforts with increased ice time
Senators rookie forward Chris Kelly earned close to 17 minutes of ice time from Murray against the New York Rangers on Monday night. It's a direct reward for the contributions he has been making to the team of late.
"He earned those minutes," Murray said. "His game has become a lot better. He reads the play so well with or without the puck. He was a fine checker coming in, and he's improved in that area."
Whether it's scoring a goal, killing a penalty or dishing out a big body check, Kelly continues to work hard to keep his spot in the NHL. With a few injuries popping up for the Senators, more has been asked from the rookie lately.
"Injuries are going to happen and you just try to make the best of your chances," said Kelly. "I just want to play smart, work hard and I will continue to get more confidence. At the beginning of training camp I was told there was a fourth- line spot available. I came in just trying to make the team. The more I play, the more confidence I get. I hope it just keeps going up."
On Monday Kelly was 1/2 of a massive collision that included Rangers star Jaromir Jagr. Weighing in at six feet and 195 pounds, Kelly doesn't deny that he received a bit of a jolt when crashing hard into the sixt-foot-three, 245 pounds Jagr.
"I got to the bench and (Ray) Emery said ‘He's big, eh?'," joked Kelly on Tuesday. "Neither of us had any place to go. One hundred times that will happen, and you're able to curl off. Not that time."