|Senators coach says Heatley's best is to come|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 22 April 2007 10:47|
The Senators made quick work of their opening-round opponent, disposing of the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games without much help from their best player during the regular season.
That could mean trouble for the New Jersey Devils, who will face the Senators in the second round after eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 3-2 win Sunday.
``Dany was hurting a little bit. I don't think there's any secret in that and I think he'll be better,'' coach Bryan Murray said Sunday after Ottawa returned to practice from a two-day break. ``A couple of days will really give him a little boost. He had the ankle issue, which was bothering him.
``I think he pressed a little bit early in the series and you could see that his skating wasn't quite where it had been.''
Even so, Heatley had two goals, both game-winners, and four points against the Penguins. It wasn't the production the Senators expect from Heatley, whose 50 goals during the regular season made him the first player to have at least 50 two straight seasons since Pavel Bure did it in 1999-2000 and 2000-01.
Heatley dismissed any notion that a twisted ankle he suffered in a regular-season game against Boston in late March is affecting his play.
``It wasn't a huge problem in Round 1, it was just something that was a little tender, but two days off has really helped it so it should be no problem,'' Heatley said.
Heatley also devoted more energy to defense. He and linemates Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson often went head-to-head against Pittsburgh's top line led by Sidney Crosby, who was usually flanked by Mark Recchi and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby managed three goals, but Recchi and Malkin failed to score.
Heatley was credited with 310 shots, or 3.8 per game, in the regular season, the eighth-highest total in the league. In the playoffs, he's had just 11 shots through the first five contests (2.2 per game). Four other Senators had as many, if not more.
``We wanted to shut down their top line a lot, too, and we probably didn't take as many offensive chances as we normally would,'' Spezza said. ``Within the team game, we thought we were playing well.''
Playing a more responsible defensive role is all part of the transformation Heatley made during the season, when he showed a previously unnoticed ability to play at both ends of the ice, and he doesn't have qualms about sacrificing scoring for team success.
``No, it's not tough,'' said Heatley, who also helped the Senators' penalty-killing unit limit Pittsburgh's vaunted power play.
Even so, if the Senators are to advance, they'll likely need more offense from the 26-year-old.
In an encouraging sign, Heatley provided the knockout blow in Game 5 when the Penguins were fighting to stave off elimination.
``Through all the series, it's going to be different guys stepping up,'' Alfredsson said. ``Him scoring a huge goal for us in Game 5 is going to help him and help us as well.''