Senators dismantle Flyers in exhibition play

Future Ottawa stars, new uniforms take centre stage at JLC

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Ottawa scoring against the Flyers

Jonas Hrebeniuk

TICKLING MORE TWINE THAN A FETISHISTIC BURLAP SACK. The Flyers simply couldn't stop Ottawa's onslaught in their exhibition game played at the John Labatt Centre this week.

Despite the disappointment of finishing just shy of the 2006-07 Stanley Cup, Ottawa Senators winger Chris Neil knows it is important to focus on the here and now.

“You have to build on [last season’s finish],” Neil said. “We want to get back where we were last year.

“We got a taste of [playoff success] and that is the drive you need to keep on pushing forward.”

That is what the Senators did Tuesday night when they blanked the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in front of a crowd of 9,100 at the John Labatt Centre.

In their first pre-season game, goalie Martin Gerber was stellar in net, stopping all 52 shots, including two from London native Jeff Carter. The Senators had 39 shots on goal during the match.

Gerber’s shutout performance was enough to earn him the second star of the game, followed by first star, rookie winger Nick Foligno.

Foligno, who is looking to earn a spot with the Senators for the regular season, scored the third goal of the night for Ottawa and added two assists.

“I am pretty excited that I’m able to produce and show them I am able to play that side of the game,” he said. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help me, my teammates and my cause of trying to make this team.”

Ilja Zubov, Andrej Mezaros and Patrick Eaves also found the back of the net during the game.

Following Foligno’s strong outing, Neil indicated there is a place for some talented new players on the Ottawa roster.

“We have some young guys coming in and working hard and they are getting an opportunity to make the team,” he said. “It says a lot about our depth.”

Senators head coach John Paddock was impressed with Foligno’s play, but also has to consider Foligno received a helping hand from his linemates Eaves and Chris Kelly.

“I thought he worked better [because] ... two of his linemates were the best players on the ice,” Paddock said.

For his part, Foligno agreed with Paddock’s assessment.

“I played with two great players today in Patrick Eaves and Chris Kelly,” he said. “It is a lot easier out there for me for sure.”

Foligno also added that it’s a privilege just to live out his dreams.

“It is a big honour,” he said. “[The Senators] are a great organization. They are first class and to be a part of that is a pretty special feeling. It is an honour when you put on that jersey and go out and play.”

Neil is another Senator who knows the excitement of living out his childhood ambitions.

“Right from when I was a little kid, I told my principals that I was going to play in the NHL,” Neil said. “I’m fortunate enough I get to do that for a living. It is a great opportunity, but I have worked hard for it and I have to keep working hard every game.”

Hockey fight

While the pre-season is often about testing up-and-coming players, it is also about getting the veterans prepared for the fast approaching regular season.

Senators winger Brian McGrattan stressed the importance of exhibition play.

“[I am] focused on getting my legs going and working with the guys I am playing with and trying to get something going for the next game we play,” he said. “Every [aspect of the game] needs work and you have to continue working.

“[You have to] focus on positional play; that’s the biggest thing at this level.”

Paddock said despite the work to come, it is nice to have a win as the team’s starting point.

“Anytime you get a shutout, you are real good,” he said. “It didn’t seem like we gave up [that] many shots but regardless, the play was really good.”

Although the Flyers finished poorly in the standings last year and went home without the win Tuesday night, they remained positive about the future of their club.

Flyers winger Scottie Upshall was traded to Philadelphia last February is optimistic about the upcoming season.

“We are two games down out of eight that we play in exhibition, [but] I feel like as a team we are starting to pull together,” he said. “I’m proud to be a Flyer [and] ... we are excited about the year.

“[Last year was] tough as an organization with the big history we have for post-season play,” he added. “We are not happy with the way last season went and we have things to build on and more goals to achieve this year.”

As a club with more recent playoff experience, the Senators are looking to go deep into the post-season again this year.

“We were pretty close last year, so our main goal is to get back there,” McGrattan said. “[Right now], we just need to focus on getting a good start and finish where we finished off last year and play a good game.”

Neil added that nothing matches the excitement of the Stanley Cup race.

“It’s great,” he said. “The way the fans get behind us is unbelievable. Every game in the playoffs, they rose to the challenge. I hope every player in the NHL gets to feel the power of those fans.”

The Senators will face the Washington Capitals back in Ottawa tonight, while the Flyers will look for their first pre-season win on Saturday night against the Rangers.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette