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McAmmond found right fit as centre on energetic fourth line for Senators

The 33-year-old centres the Senators' speedy fourth line, which gets semi-regular shifts with coach Bryan Murray always looking to keep his team fresh.

And the Grand Cache, Alta., native rewarded the coach with three goals and three assists through the Senators' opening 12 playoff matches this season - including some key goals when the club was looking for its role players to chip in.

"Basically, we're just trying to make sure we give the other three lines a good breather, keep the momentum going and play simple, hard hockey," McAmmond said Monday of his trio with Oleg Saprykin and converted defenceman Christoph Schubert.

"The guys have bought into that. We try to keep the puck deep and get some chances."

McAmmond signed a one-year contract worth US$725,000 with Ottawa as an unrestricted free agent last summer after a long season with the last-place St. Louis Blues.

He's gone from the basement to a team with a real chance to win the Stanley Cup.

He began his career with Chicago in 1991-92 when the Blackhawks made it to the Stanley Cup final, but they chose not to use the rookie.

McAmmond was also a member of the Calgary Flames team that reached the 2004 final, but couldn't play due to a back injury.

With his age and a history of back problems, which he says are behind him, McAmmond wasn't certain to be signed at all. He credits his agent Steve Bartlett and the Senators for giving him a chance.

"To be honest. because of the market and being on St. Louis last season when we were in last place, there was just not much going on," he said.

"Ottawa was a team we had some conversation with and we ended up getting a deal done. There wasn't a lot else out there. My agent targeted Ottawa because he thought it would be a good fit for me and he was right."

McAmmond, whose career years produced 21 goals and 51 points for Calgary in 2001-02, had 14 goals and 15 assists in 81 games this season.

He has been noticed more in the playoffs, using his speed and experience to give the Senators extra depth and some important goals. And he kills penalties.

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against Buffalo, he set up Saprykin for the winning goal and added an empty-net marker in a 5-2 victory.

He also had a short-handed goal in Game 1 of the second round against New Jersey.

While some team's fourth-liners rarely see the ice, Murray wants his to be active whenever he can get them into a game.

"I like to play a lot of players," Murray said. "There are times you shut them down and I did that in some individual games this year.

"But if you play them, they're ready in case you have an injury on one of the three others lines. And if they skate like our fourth line does, with the level of hard work and puck pursuit they have, it wears a team down over the course of a game."

McAmmond and Saprykin were teammates in Calgary, when they briefly played on a line with scoring star Jarome Iginla when the Flames had injuries up front.

Saprykin, a late-season pickup by Ottawa, joined the line when left winger Patrick Eaves suffered a head injury from a vicious hit by Pittsburgh's Colby Armstrong in the opening round of playoffs.

Eaves has been cleared to play for several days, but Murray has been reluctant to break up trio when the team is winning. The 23-year-old understands.

"We've got a good thing going now," said Eaves, the Senators' first-round draft pick in 2003. "I've just got to keep ready in case they need me."


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