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Sens lining up a familiar look

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Familiarity, it’s often been said, breeds success.

And that’s the approach Ottawa Senators head coach John Paddock had in mind when he reset his top line combinations for Saturday night’s rematch with the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

Back together are the big three – captain Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley – who were separated during Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils in Newark, N.J.

Paddock has also decided to reunite centre Mike Fisher with wingers Dean McAmmond and Chris Neil, while new acquisition Cory Stillman now lines up on the left side with Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly.

“I want to get back to a sense of familiarity,” Paddock said in explaining the alignment for his top three lines. “Dean and Fish and Neiler have been playing pretty good together, and when the big line came back, certainly they were unbelievable against Montreal.

“I think Cory will really help with Vermy and Kels. And they’ll provide what he needs with them; some speed and some hockey sense.”

Stillman has bounced around with several linemates since being acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, along with defenceman Mike Commodore. But it’s something the veteran expected as a new addition to the lineup.

“In today’s game, linemates change all the time,” said Stillman. “I would imagine that here, within the first week or so, I’ll end up playing with everybody. Then you’ll find lines. Obviously, everybody knows the first line stays together and plays extremely well.

“We’re switching lines and who knows where I’ll end up.”

Paddock, though, is hoping this is the alignment that works for the long haul.

“I had meetings with a couple of players yesterday and thought why not go this way and get as much familiarity as possible with types of players together that have had success and just play,” he said.

Vermette, for one, is eager to get his shot with Stillman, a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

“He’s a smart player,” he said. “(Stillman) seems to be good at every aspect of the game. He’s not a flashy player, but he makes good reads and gets in good position. He’s composed with the puck. It’s a good addition… I think it’s going to be good for us. We’ll see how it goes.”

Lineup notes

Ray Emery (10-9-3) returns to the Senators net against the Devils … Fisher didn’t practise today but Paddock said he’ll play Saturday … Forward Cody Bass is out for six weeks, Paddock added, after having left foot surgery to “repair and heal”’ the “lace bite” problem (an infection caused by the tongue of the skate boot digging into the skin) that has sidelined him the past several weeks.

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