Murray finds comfort zone in the fold as senators reflect on last minute roster changes

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Ottawa Senators goalkeeper Matt Murray declined to enter into any discussion about the team’s expectations Sunday.

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After all, there are still a number of questions about exactly what the roster will look like for Thursday’s season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Senators continue to operate without restricted free agent left winger Brady Tkachuk and with significant injuries to center Colin White and Austin Watson. There could also be more movement on the roster before senators and all NHL teams are due to submit their opening day rosters on Monday at 5 p.m.

Murray, however, did his part during the preseason to deflect the goalkeepers’ concerns.

Looking to bounce back from his shaky first season with the Senators, he was solid in all three of his exhibition game appearances.

“I felt pretty good, trying to improve a little bit in every game,” said Murray, who allowed three goals before going halfway through Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, which closed the preseason schedule. .

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Murray feels more settled than when the 2020-21 season began, without any set-up games.

“Maybe we take preseason for granted,” he said after Sunday morning practice.

“After last year, we realize how important it is to have that preparation period to fix problems. When you come from a long summer like the one we did last year, it was a challenge. “

Murray bounced back at the end of the 2020-21 season, but the initial mess in the Senators also led to Zac Bierk replacing Pierre Groulx as goalkeeping coach. Murray finished with a 10-13-1 record, 3.38 goals against average and .893 save percentage.

The senators, who might have a hard time finding an offense, will need much better numbers from Murray this time to stay competitive.

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Senators coach DJ Smith called the team’s preseason goal “spectacular” and said “they gave us a chance to win every night.”

With Filip Gustavsson assigned to Belleville from the AHL on Sunday, the Senators will begin the season with Anton Forsberg as Murray’s backup.

They are certainly confident that Gustavsson, who was 5-1-2 with a 2.16 average and a .933 save percentage at the end of the 2020-21 season, can step in at any time.

Senators winger Austin Watson injured an ankle in Thursday's preseason competition against the Canadiens and is expected to be out of action for at least a while.
Senators winger Austin Watson injured an ankle in Thursday’s preseason competition against the Canadiens and is expected to be out of action for at least a while. Photo by Errol McGihon. /Postmedia

WAIT A MONTH

The ever-evolving lower end of the Senate’s forward ranks has taken another hit. Smith said Sunday that veteran winger Watson would be out for four weeks with an ankle injury.

According to the technician, its value goes far beyond the surface numbers.

“It holds people accountable,” Smith said. “You can call anyone on the mat at any time. He will fight a guy twice his size or block a shot with any part of his body. “

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Watson scored three goals and seven assists in 34 games last season, and missed the end of the year following wrist surgery.

His absence could open the door for Scott Sabourin to start the year in the majors again. Sabourin stepped in to fight Justin Holl on Saturday after Holl hit Tim Stuetzle when he was in a vulnerable position.

Logan Shaw (left) of the Winnipeg Jets and Sammy Blais of the St. Louis Blues, February 6, 2020. Shaw signed a two-year contract with the Ottawa Senators in 2020 and has been playing with the Belleville Senators in the AHL.
Logan Shaw (left) of the Winnipeg Jets and Sammy Blais of the St. Louis Blues, February 6, 2020. Shaw signed a two-year contract with the Ottawa Senators in 2020 and has been playing with the Belleville Senators in the AHL. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat /fake images

THE RIDDLE OF THE MIDDLE

A lot can happen before Monday afternoon, but the way things looked in Sunday’s practice, AHL veteran Logan Shaw held the fourth centerline spot. Andrew Agozzino, who was also in the running for that start, was placed on waivers Sunday morning, with the likelihood that he will go unclaimed and end up back at Belleville.

“Right now, it’s Shaw,” Smith said. “He had a good game (Saturday) in the evening, probably his best game.”

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Shaw, 29, has been in a yo-yo between the NHL and the AHL throughout his nine-year professional career, recording 15 goals and 21 assists in 215 NHL games with Florida, Anaheim, Montreal and Winnipeg. .

Smith says there is a temptation to move Nick Paul to center, but that would weaken the Senators’ left side. Senators have a line from Nick Paul, Shane Pinto and Connor Brown to take on the opposition in all situations.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE?

Senators general manager Pierre Dorion will also carefully examine the exemption lists to see if there could be another center that can fill the gap.

“Pierre keeps me informed, but that’s his job,” he said. “Ultimately, I make the decisions with the coach and the lines and what’s on the ice.”

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Smith says he is “staying in his lane” and lets scouting crews do their work to see “if they think there is someone who can help us.”

TALKING ABOUT TURKEY

Players and coaches had separate family gatherings on Thanksgiving Sunday.

Smith suspected the dinner table conversation could drift from “pass the cranberry sauce, please,” to a discussion about the club’s defensive attitude. The only certainty is that Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub will start together.

“There is nothing established,” Smith said. “We are probably not supposed to talk about hockey, but we will talk about hockey.” … Unsurprisingly, forwards Egor Sokolov and Mark Kastelic, along with defenders Lassi Thomson and Dillon Heatherington, were reassigned to Belleville on Sunday.

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