Neil shines at ACC; Murray deal nixed

Eclipsed by the loss to Toronto was one of the best games in Chris Neil’s career.

PITTSBURGH – Eclipsed by the loss to Toronto was one of the best games in Chris Neil’s career.

The Senators tough guy, whose job it is to dump and pound, not dangle and score, was one road warrior who could hold his head high in Ottawa’s 6-3 loss to the Maple Leafs Saturday.

While negative numbers surrounded him on the game sheet (Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan, Milan Michalek, Mika Zibanejad, Kyle Turris, Clarke MacArthur were a combined minus-14), Neil was a plus three, and was in on all three of the Senators’ goals. He scored two himself and set up Colin Greening’s goal with a slick pass on a two-on-one.

Not a bad night’s work for a winger who has spent most of his 12-year career patrolling the team’s third and fourth lines.

“He’s capable of those passes, but sometimes the way we play, we might not have those odd-man rushes consistently like other players,” Greening said. “He made a lot of great plays. He was physical and I think he got rewarded for the effort he put into it.”

Just last week, Neil reached the 100-goal mark. He now has eight on the season, though he’s better known for 2,000-plus career penalty minutes. As usual, he deflected talk about his personal game on Saturday.

“It was an exciting game, Hockey Night In Canada, in Toronto,” Neil said. “You get revved up for those games. It would’ve been nicer with a better outcome.”

Neil’s day on Saturday began with a colorful morning skate in which he delighted a large group of school children by deflecting shots and scoring goals, as Neil and other players hammed it up while the kids howled.

“That was my teammates pumping my tires,” Neil said. “I’m just trying to get better out there, hopefully they follow suit.

“We have a good group of guys in the room,” Neil said. “It’s important to joke and have fun. The day I don’t joke and have fun is the day I retire.”

MURRAY DEAL NIXED
Senators GM Bryan Murray said he was close to a minor trade that would have brought Ottawa a forward, but that the deal was taken off the table by a rival GM.

“I’ve talked to a number of managers, but there’s nothing on the horizon right now,” Murray said. “I’ve had a couple of teams I was talking to fairly seriously about a smaller type deal that would add one player to our team but it doesn’t appear it’s going to happen at this point.

“As of now, we are what we are,” Murray said.

That doesn’t mean he won’t try to add either a scoring forward or a bruising forward before the March 5 trade deadline.

PAIRING UP

After being a fixture playing alongside Erik Karlsson last season, Marc Methot has had different defence partners this year, but most recently has been paired with Eric Gryba.

That’s not working out badly, even if Gryba was victimized on the fourth Leaf goal, by Phil Kessel after Tyler Bozak scooped Gryba’s pass.

For a player who was a healthy scratch early on, Gryba is eating a lot of minutes alongside Methot.

“I like playing with Gryba,” Methot said. “We have a similar defensive mindset. He’s smart, he’s big and he can move. He’s been a treat to play with so far.”

This is not to say Methot didn’t enjoy his time with the flashy Karlsson.

“Karl is a Norris Trophy winner,” Methot said. “But if not with Karl I have to make the best of whoever else I’m playing with. It turns out Grybs is a really good player and we’ve been meshing together pretty well.

SENS SUPER SUNDAY

After a light workout at the hotel, which included a yoga session, players relaxed on Sunday and made plans to watch the Super Bowl together.

“It will be nice to sit around with all the guys and watch some TV,” Methot said. “We’re all huge football fans and anytime there’s a big sporting event and we can get the team together it’s fun.”

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