Senators Notebook: Murray relents, opts for reunion of top line
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OTTAWA -- Together again, naturally.
Coach Bryan Murray relented and reunited his big playoff line last night.
"You mean Cody Bass and Shean Donovan?" Murray teased beforehand.
No, the really big line was hooked up for the first time this postseason. Captain Daniel Alfredsson, after his dramatic, Game 3 comeback from assorted maladies, was allowed to take the next step and rejoin Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. The trio topped all NHL playoff scorers last spring with 22 points apiece in 20 games.
Together and then split through the first three games of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal, Spezza and Heatley conjured just one assist each before Game 4 last night. Alfredsson was scoreless Monday but took a team-high four shots.
In no surprise, they started Game 4 last night, sparking a Scotiabank Place ovation. They got a shot -- from Spezza -- on their first shift, but the Senators managed only four more shots the ensuing 19 minutes ... and none in the final 6 minutes, 41 seconds of the first period. Their shotless stretch reached 10:12 before that line produced another Ottawa shot, a few minutes into the second period.
"You count on them to play well and doing what they're capable of doing, and that's being a force whenever they're on the ice," Murray said.
Ailing checker and penalty killer Chris Kelly skated yesterday before the morning skate and, Murray said, could have been available Saturday if the series had gone to Game 5.
Kelly is recovering from a hairline fracture in his lower left leg March 22 against Toronto, the same team that two weeks later put out Alfredsson until Monday's Game 3.
Kelly, who had 11 goals and 30 assists this season, missed 10 games. His return would have left Ottawa with just one injured mainstay: Second-line center Mike Fisher (knee), whom Murray admitted would have been assigned to shadowing Penguins star Evgeni Malkin if healthy.
"You're juggling and asking guys to do abnormal things," Murray said of a lineup rearranged by injuries. "They're not here; you have to make adjustments. But there's no question when you're juggling people around, there's not that chemistry. Last year, we had the core group together from Christmas on, at least. And played accordingly."
Meantime, Murray noted, the Penguins the past two games were in good health, except "they had to take Gary [Roberts] out the other night because he's 41 years old."
Roberts sat out last night, too.
Goaltender Martin Gerber, Kelly and Fisher were the only Senators who didn't partake of Ottawa's optional morning skate. ... Scratched besides Kelly and Fisher were Luke Richardson, Brian McGrattan, Randy Robitaille and Alexander Nikulin. ... Murray sounded like a general manager confident his job is safe. "Everybody around here knew I was reluctant to [fire John Paddock late in the season], but it had to be done."
First Published April 17, 2008 12:00 am