|Ottawa Senators veteran Bryan Smolinski has offered a steady influence of leadership for coach Bryan Murray this season.|
by Todd Anderson
The Ottawa Senators had 16 players participate in an optional skate today before the team departed for Buffalo where they will meet the Sabres tomorrow night.
Among them was veteran Bryan Smolinski, who scored the game-winning goal in a 6-4 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers last night. Filling in for injured centre Mike Fisher in between Chris Neil and Peter Schaefer recently -- the 34-year-old's game-winner was the result of a perfectly executed two-on-one play with Schaefer.
Hours earlier, during the pre-game skate, coach Bryan Murray had stressed the focus required during odd-man rushes. Watching Smolinski make that two-on-one work with Schaefer last night was just one sign of what the veteran has provided for the team this year.
"He knows the game. He's played steady for us. He's a veteran guy and he's moved around (onto different lines) for me. When he gets the puck around the net, he puts it in."
Calling this year's edition of the Senators one of the best teams he's been on, Smolinski spoke about expectations for the rest of the season.
"The obvious thing is we all know what this team is capable of doing. I think we have great focus."
Another award for Emery
The NHL announced today that Senators goaltender Ray Emery is the NHL rookie of the month for March. The announcement comes a day after Emery was named NHL defensive player of the month after a record-tying 12-2-2 stretch.
Fisher, Zdeno Chara and Martin Havlat all participated in today's optional skate.
Havlat's status remains the same, as he won't return to the lineup at least until his injured shoulder is re-examined by doctors on April 10.
Fisher, who has a sprained ankle, said he's beginning to feel better.
"I had a good skate, and we'll see how it responds. It's getting close."
Chara, meanwhile, was passing the puck and taking shots today, but he still doesn't feel game-ready.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson, who had the flu, was given the day off today, but he's expected to play in Buffalo.
Tyler Arnason will be a game-time decision due to a possible slight concussion.