They have been down this path of adversity before.
And the Ottawa Senators did much more than survive. Rather, they thrived and found the identity they needed to become a Stanley Cup finalist.
That being said, though, nobody in the Senators camp is relishing the prospect of going six weeks without Dany Heatley, their two-time 50-goal man, who has been sidelined by a separated right shoulder suffered during Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Scotiabank Place.
Since joining the Senators 2 1/2 seasons ago, Heatley had played every regular-season game with the team. But that 207-game ironman streak is now officially over.
“It’s frustrating,” Heatley said Sunday about the injury. “It was kind of an unlucky play, but that’s hockey. I’ll just rehab as quick as I can and try to get back as quick as I can.
“It happens. I think I’ve been fortunate the last two years to play all the games, so eventually you’re going to have a setback once in awhile … If there’s a positive, I’ll get some rest here and be ready for the end of the season and the playoffs.”
The injury occurred in the third period, as Heatley tried to finish a check against the Red Wings’ Dallas Drake. But when Drake lost his balance, Heatley flew over top of him, slamming his right shoulder hard into the boards.
“I didn’t feel much pain right away,” said Heatley, who’ll now miss the Jan. 27 NHL all-star game in Atlanta. “I thought I just stunned it a bit. But when we got back in the (dressing) room, we figured out what happened.”
Also likely gone for Heatley: A shot at a third straight 50-goal season, something that hasn’t happened in the National Hockey League since John LeClair of the Philadelphia Flyers turned the trick from 1995-96 through 1997-98.
“That was probably my first thought after the game,” Senators head coach John Paddock said of Heatley, who’s counted 25 goals among his 56 points. “He probably would have attained it. Nobody else has done it for awhile (and) he was right on that 50-goal pace again. It’s disappointing for that.
“But he will be healthy, rested player for March, April, May and June. Definitely better that it happened now than March 12 or April 12.”
The Senators are surely familiar with the road now in front of them. Almost exactly a year ago, centres Jason Spezza
and Mike Fisher both went down with injuries at the same time, while the Senators were sitting outside of a playoff position. But rather than crumble under the weight of that adversity, the rest of the team responded with a torrid stretch of hockey that turned around their season and sparked the run to the Stanley Cup final.
“It’s certainly not a nice thought,” Paddock said of losing Heatley for six weeks. “But I think you use the old cliché that it’s somebody else’s opportunity, which it is. What we’ll try to impress on the rest of the team is the approach we had last year when Jason and Fish were out at the same time, which is goals aren’t going to be scored quite as easily.
“You’re talking about a real goal scorer … all (Heatley) needs is that one chance. When you don’t have a player like that, we have to play like we did (Saturday) night. We have to be better defensively than we’ve been all season.
“That’s what happened last year. When we lost those two centre men, we became the defensive team that took us to the finals. That has to be the goal of the group now, to play with that kind of conscience.”
Paddock said he’ll put Randy Robitaille alongside Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson
to at least start Sunday night’s game against the New York Islanders at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). But he suggested Patrick Eaves likely will be slotted into that spot on the No. 1 line when he returns from his own shoulder separation.
“We hope and expect Patty to be back on Tuesday (in Washington),” he said.
Added Heatley: “We’ve said it all along. Guys get hurt at different times and other guys step up. That’s been a huge key for our team. I think different guys will step up, different guys will play a little more and we’ll be fine.”
Martin Gerber will make the start in net against the Islanders, with forward Brian McGrattan being inserted in the lineup.