Injury bug bites Senators

The Ottawa Senators are battling the injury bug with less than two weeks to go in the NHL regular season.

Unlike last season, however, when they limped to an early playoff exit, the Senators feel they have the team to survive this time around.

"I think last year we were more vulnerable, we didn't have the depth," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said after Tuesday's practice following a 3-3 tie with the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night in which defenceman Sami Salo became the second Senators regular to fall in less than 72 hours.

Early in the first period, Salo was cross-checked in the face by Flyers right-winger Rick Tocchet, who received a double minor for high-sticking. on the play.

For his part, Salo received cracked teeth and a concussion, described by Senators coach Jacques Martin as mild that will force him to miss at least Wednesday night's game in Chicago against the Blackhawks.

Salo joins all-star centre Radek Bonk, who fractured his left thumb against the Nashville Predators on Saturday, on the injury list.

Bonk underwent surgery to insert a pin Monday and will miss at least the next three weeks.

To make matters worse, left-winger Magnus Arvedson, who's missed 30 games this season due to various injuries, was given Tuesday off by Martin as a "precaution."

He's expected to be in the lineup against Chicago.

Last season, the Senators lost Shawn McEachern to a broken thumb before defenceman Wade Redden broke a foot in the regular-season finale.

Ottawa eventually bowed out to the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games in the first round of the playoffs.

With the latest injuries, all of the sudden general manager Marshall Johnston's deadline-day deals for centre Mike Sillinger and defenceman Curtis Leschyshyn are vital.

"It's not only an opportunity for myself, but everyone has an increased (role)," Sillinger said.

Playing on the second line with Arvedson and Marian Hossa for much of the season, Bonk was Ottawa's top faceoff man and defensive centre before the arrival of Sillinger, plus he contributed 59 points offensively.

Against Philadelphia, Sillinger played almost 20 minutes, won 17 of 24 faceoffs, picked up an assist and held Flyers centre Keith Primeau pointless.

Primeau left late in the game with a sprained knee.

"Mike filled in there with Hossa and did a good job," Martin said.

With Salo out, Martin can chose between Ricard Persson, Shane Hnidy or Jamie Rivers and can pair Leschyshyn with Jason York on the power play until Salo's return.

With Alexei Yashin back in the fold and the continuing emergence of younger players such as rookie Martin Havlat and Mike Fisher, the Senators should be able to cope if the injury bug continues.

"Right now, we are missing a big part of the hockey club," Sillinger said. "The good thing is we do have a lot of depth here."

By Chris Yzerman