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Sens bring cheer to CHEO

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
They returned home grinning about back-to-back wins.

And on Monday afternoon, the Ottawa Senators did their best to put some smiles on a few youngsters’ faces.

The Senators took a break from their regular practice routine and instead made their annual pre-Christmas stop at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) during the afternoon.

It’s a day of true Christmas cheer, and not just for the boys and girls who get to share a moment or two with some of their hockey idols.

“The guys really enjoy coming here, and having some fun and signing some autographs,” said Senators defenceman Wade Redden. “And knowing they’re so excited to see us makes it great, too. Hopefully, we can leave an impression with them … a picture or an autograph doesn’t seem like much, but the kids get a big thrill out of it.

“If we can have a positive impact, that’s what it’s all about.”

And the children give back to the players in ways they probably can’t imagine, too.

“You can’t say enough about how upbeat they are,” said forward Chris Neil. “Whenever we leave here, we’ve got big smiles on our faces and you feel rejuvenated … When you’re in the corner, you get hacked and whacked and get your bumps and bruises, but you don’t feel anything compared to what they’re going through.

“It’s amazing. They just bring life back into you by the way their eyes light up, and they bring emotion back into your life.”

Indeed, centre Mike Fisher told the wide-eyed youngsters gathered in the CHEO cafeteria that "it's an honour and a privilege for us to be here."

Tuesday morning, the Senators return to the ice to begin preparations for another road trip – although this one ends rather quickly. They’re in Raleigh, N.C., to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200), then head off to Pittsburgh to tangle with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins the following evening (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, TSN).

After putting a halt to a seven-game winless streak by edging the Florida Panthers 5-4 in a scrambly affair last Wednesday, the Senators went to Dallas on Friday night and turned in a solid effort, dispatching the Stars 4-2. There was little fancy about this one, but the Sens’ workmanlike performance was coldly effective.

“We were strong in the trenches and battled hard,” Senators head coach John Paddock said after the victory, calling it  “the most urgent game we've played in a while.”

Fisher said it was another sign the Senators are getting closer to regaining the form that allowed them to start the season 16-3-0.

“We kind of got in a lull,” said Fisher, who put the brakes on a 14-game goal drought by scoring in both wins last week. “Guys weren’t playing as well as we knew we could, myself included. It takes time to get on track. I think we’re getting our confidence back.”

After the two mid-week road tests, the Senators return home to face the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). It’ll be the team’s first home game in two weeks. About 200 tickets remain for the game.

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