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By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - The Stanley Cup has been a reasonable goal in the city of Ottawa for years now, yet the team has built a nice reputation as a playoff flop.

Last season that continued as the Sens were knocked out by the upstart Buffalo Sabres in the second round.

The team entered the offseason with its top two defensemen -- Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara -- becoming free agents, and they were able to re-sign one of them in Redden. Chara took his mammoth frame to division foe Boston.

Other losses included Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski, who were both traded to Chicago, and goaltender Dominik Hasek, who went back to Detroit as a free agent.

The Sens still have a top-flight offensive attack led by Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, and Redden anchors a still able defense corps. Goaltender Martin Gerber, meanwhile, was brought in to replace Hasek as the top netminder.

It will again be Stanley Cup or bust in the Canadian capital. Unfortunately such an attitude at the start of the season always finishes as disappointment there.

FORWARDS - Heatley was dealt to Ottawa before last season, and it truly was a new beginning for the star forward. He finished with 50 goals and 53 assists in 82 games, and appeared to have put the tragic car accident of 2003 behind him. Heatley spearheaded the top line that also included Alfredsson (43g, 60a) and Spezza (19g, 71a).

Spezza's development was a huge factor, as he was second in the league in assists at the age of 22. Remember, the pick used on him in 2001 was the one obtained from the NY Islanders in the Alexei Yashin trade.

The losses of Havlat and Smolinski must be accounted for, and the team has guys who know how to score goals. Mike Fisher, Peter Schaefer, Antoine Vermette and sophomore Patrick Eaves are all proven 20-goal producers.

The Senators should again have enough firepower to lead the NHL in goal- scoring during the regular season. Of course, their forwards will ultimately be judged on how they do after that.

DEFENSE - Losing a guy who can log over 30 minutes of ice time, be a wrecking ball and contribute offensively is not something to be taken lightly. That said, the fact that Redden was re-signed is something the Sens can take comfort in. He isn't a mammoth figure like Chara, but he is a bona fide anchor who plays one of the best all-around styles in the NHL.

Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov are both big bodies who were a combined plus-40 last season, while Tom Preissing, who was obtained in the three-way Havlat trade, injects an offensive spark. Preissing tallied 11 goals and 32 assists for San Jose last season.

Andrej Meszaros was impressive as a rookie, netting 10 goals with 29 assists in 82 games. Five of his 10 tallies came on the power play. Joe Corvo, a free agent signee, should also help on the attack, and defensemen joining the rush is something preached by head coach Bryan Murray, who enters his second season with the club.

GOALTENDING - Gerber appeared in 60 regular season games for Carolina last season, going 38-14-6 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. While he was eventually supplanted by rookie Cam Ward in the postseason, it can't be overlooked that he was the primary netminder as the team finished with the top record in the Eastern Conference.

http://146.145.120.3/default.asp?c=hockeynews&page=nhl/news/adn4042365.htm
 
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