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OTTAWA -- Win tonight's game for Dany Heatley? You bet. The San Jose Sharks have rallied around their teammate.
"I think it'll fire the guys up a little bit," Sharks blueliner Douglas Murray said after this morning's skate at Scotiabank Place. "I know I'm a little extra excited to win the game for him. He's a great teammate. He's very well-liked in this dressing room."
It's been Heatley 24/7 in this market the past few days, as he returns to Ottawa for the first time since forcing a trade 15 months ago. It's the game of the year for some Senators fans.
"We dealt with this a long time ago," Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "This is the fans' chance to deal with it."
Heatley faced the Ottawa media horde this morning, and if the role of villain he's been cast in locally has affected him, he wasn't showing it.
"I'm not nervous," Heatley said. "I think I've been through this before, and once the puck drops, it'll just be another game."
Asked whether the game was being a little overplayed in Ottawa, Heatley said it depended who you asked.
"For a lot of people it's not, but for me, I've moved on," Heatley said. "I'm happy in San Jose and I want to win the game tonight."
Heatley's good friend, Jason Spezza of the Senators, hopes to feed off the crowd's buzz tonight but also hopes fans won't go too far with his pal.
"I hope the signs don't cross the line. Have fun, but be respectful," said Spezza. "We know it means a lot to fans. We want to win for a lot of reasons. It sells tickets. The team is probably happy."
Sitting in the stands watching his team practice Thursday, Sens GM Bryan Murray was asked by ESPN.com how much Heatley's trade in September 2009 set back the franchise.
"It was a tough trade to have to make," Murray said. "Obviously, we wanted Dany to be here. Our long-term plan was to have him, Alfie and Spezza here. We basically were forced into making a trade that we knew, at the time, would be unlikely to [get us] equal value. You could get numbers [of players], but you couldn't do much more than that."
The Sens acquired Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a swap of draft picks. It wasn't a great trade, but one can hardly blame Murray. He was squeezed. Among the five teams Heatley (with no-movement clause) gave Murray, San Jose made the only real offer (the Los Angeles Kings only kicked the tires).
"I talked to a number of teams, but I can't say there were any other teams that where close," said Murray. "There was nothing really concrete from any other team."
As much as Heatley is missed by the Senators, the move that really set this franchise back was losing Zdeno Chara to Boston via free agency, Murray said Thursday. Murray was only coach at the time, while John Muckler was GM. But choosing Wade Redden over Chara (the Sens couldn't afford to sign both) was really the move that changed a perennial contender into a team that now must scratch and claw to get into the playoffs.
Lost in the Heatley drama is Ottawa native Dan Boyle playing in his 700th NHL game tonight. That he gets to play it in his hometown, in front of 70 family members and close friends attending the game, is truly special for him.
"And Bryan Murray was my first GM," Boyle said Thursday. "So it's kind of a cool little thing. My first GM and playing in my hometown. I'm definitely pretty proud."
It goes without saying that the undrafted Boyle's journey to 700 games is nothing short of inspirational.
"I still have that chip on my shoulder. I'll always have it," said Boyle. "It's not as much about proving people wrong anymore as much as proving people right. [San Jose GM] Doug Wilson is one of those people because he got me here to the Sharks."