Senators sticking together
It's one for all, all for one in facing playoff race 'challenge'
Now down to their final two chances to earn a playoff berth, the Ottawa Senators pushed through a Wednesday morning workout at the Bell Sensplex that seemed free of the tension that’s engulfed them for much of the past few games.
“It was one of those days where you have to be a little loose with them,” Senators head coach/general manager Bryan Murray said less than 24 hours after a disappointing 3-0 home-ice loss to the Montreal Canadiens that has left the Senators’ playoff hopes sitting in limbo for a few more days yet.
“(The) circumstances are still the same. We have to win a couple of hockey games. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen (Tuesday) night so now we have to win a couple of games in two days.”
For the Senators, it starts Thursday night in Toronto against their provincial rivals, the Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m., Sens TV, Team 1200). Then comes the home and season finale Friday, when the Boston Bruins visit Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) in what could be a winner-take-all affair for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
It won’t be an easy chore, especially for a team that has been shut out in back-to-back games and is clearly pressing to break that goose egg.
“Have you seen individuals try to handle the puck as much as they’ve tried, (Tuesday) night in particular?” said Murray. “Everybody (is saying) ‘I’ve got to do it.’ That’s the pressure they feel. But I think they really kick themselves in the behind by doing that, that’s all.
“Part of my job is to encourage them to be more team-oriented. They don’t have to do it by themselves. Other people have to help.”
Centre Jason Spezza agreed, calling it a very important page out of the book that carried the Senators all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2007.
“We’re all starting to learn that we need each other to win hockey games and to get out of slumps,” he said. “What we did last year so well is we used each other and used each other’s strengths and that’s what we have to get back to a little bit this year.
“There’s not one guy or three guys or one goalie that’s going to win you games. We all got into this together (and) we’ve all got to get out of it together.”
And to a man, they’re not backing away from the precarious position they now find themselves in.
“We look at it as a challenge,” said forward Dany Heatley. “These are big games. This is why you play the game, (for) situations like this. Obviously, we didn’t want to put ourselves in this position but that’s the way it is and we’ve got to look at it as a challenge and have some fun and see what we’re made of.”
Two games tonight could have major implications – and give a big assist – to the Senators’ playoff chances. If the Bruins lose in New Jersey against the Devils, Ottawa can nail down a post-season spot by beating Boston on Friday. Or, if the Carolina Hurricanes fall at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Senators would need just a single point in either of their final two games to be in. A Hurricanes overtime/shootout loss tonight combined with one Senators win would also do the trick.
Around the boards
Forward Cory Stillman (bruised leg) practised with the team but afterward, labeled himself as only a “50-50” possibility to suit up against the Leafs. “There's a chance," he said. "I skated today, which was a step, but we’ll see how everything feels for tomorrow.” … Murray has tabbed Martin Gerber (29-17-4) to make his 16th straight start in goal.