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Ottawa Senators struggle for wins without star blue-liner Wade Redden

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Ottawa Senators struggle for wins without star blue-liner Wade Redden

The Canadian Press
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But, as their most-recent result indicates, when the star defenceman doesn't play, the Senators rarely win. "I think I bring something to the team, obviously," the 29-year-old said Wednesday.

A night earlier, the Senators were beaten 3-2 by the Boston Bruins and Redden was scratched with a lower-body injury, thought to be a recurrence of groin problems that have plagued him this season.

Combined with a chest injury that forced him out of nine contests, it was the 18th time he's sat out.

And when Redden has sat out, Ottawa has struggled, winning just six of those 18 games (6-11-1). With him, the Senators' record is 39-13-7.

"We're a better team when I'm playing," he said.

That hasn't always been the conclusion in Ottawa this season.

Redden was an unrestricted free agent last summer and the Senators were faced with a choice to re-sign the native of Lloydminster, Sask., or another unrestricted free agent, Zdeno Chara, when it became clear they would have trouble keeping both under the salary cap.

The Senators tried to sign both players to similar deals and Redden, who'd spent all of his previous nine seasons with the Senators and been supported by the organization last season when he lost his mother Pat to cancer, remained loyal. He signed a two-year, US$13-million deal.

Chara, reportedly unhappy with a similar deal, bolted for the Bruins and a five-year, $37.5-million offer.

Although Chara and the Bruins have struggled, Redden has also failed to find the form that made him a two-time NHL all-star and a member of Canada's World Cup and Olympic teams.

With five games remaining in the regular season, his seven goals could leave him with the lowest total since he had six in his rookie year of 1996-97 and, with 35 points, he'll finish with a four-season low in offensive production.

On a team where defenceman Tom Preissing (plus-38), Anton Volchenkov (plus-32) and Chris Phillips (plus-28), have outstanding plus-minus ratings, Redden is only plus-3 for the year.

His defence partner, sophomore Andrej Meszaros, is a team-worst minus-13 and the two have regularly criticized.

But on a night like Tuesday, where the Senators were back at home for the first time in five games and facing an opponent they would have expected to beat, they lost - just their second regulation-time defeat in the past 22 games.

"The situation like last night, the game is after a road trip like that, there's always a letdown," Redden said. "Whether I was in the lineup or not, I don't know if I would have made a difference.

"(But) that's the goal now. We've got to get everyone healthy and we've got five games left before the playoffs and I want to be doing what I can do to help the team win."

It's good news for Ottawa as they try to hold off the Pittsburgh Penguins for fourth place in the Eastern Conference that Redden made it through a full practice Wednesday and expects to play Friday night when the Senators play host to the Montreal Canadiens.

"I just had to take a step back yesterday," he said. "It's just a matter of being precautious. I fully expect it won't be a problem again."

The health of Redden was just one of a group of Senators' injury concerns for coach Bryan Murray. Dany Heatley, who twisted an ankle Tuesday, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson all didn't practise because of various soreness, although they're all expected to play Friday as well, when the Senators have a chance to put a dent in Montreal's playoff drive.

"I don't know if I care about affecting their playoff chances more than anybody else's," Murray said. "I care about how well our team plays."

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Ottawa Senators struggle for wins without star blue-liner Wade Redden