Power shortage ailing Sens
Missed man-advantage opportunities costing team valuable points
So it was no surprise that, on the heels of a 2-0 blanking at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Ottawa Senators spent a good chunk of their practice time today in Washington working on an ailing power play. It's an area of their game that might well prove vital to the Senators when they face off against the potent Capitals on Friday night at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
"We've got to get it going," Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg said in making no bones about what's becoming a critical issue. "We've got to be a threat on it. We haven't been a threat on it for awhile and we've got to get better."
The Senators went 0-for-6 on the power play on Wednesday night in Chicago, including a 5-on-3 advantage in the first period and four-minute manpower edge in the second. In a 1-0 game – the Hawks' second goal was an empty-netter – that stings even more.
"We've got to be better on the power play," said forward Chris Neil, who saw duty on the second unit in Chicago. "When we get that many opportunities, we definitely have to score. We have a lot of skill on the first unit and we should be able to make teams pay. The second unit... we've got to make our chances work as well.
"It's just simplifying stuff, being in the right places and putting yourself in the battle. We're on the outside looking in instead of being in the battle and that's what we need."
While Hartsburg is ready to try a different approach with the man advantage, he doesn't believe the Senators' problem lies with the unit's personnel.
"We've got guys there that we think are the right fit on that first unit, for sure," he said. "Maybe we can change the point man or something like that but I think we've got the right people there. They've just got to work at it now harder than ever and have some chemistry.
"There is also a part of the power play we all forget about and that's the work habits – coming up with the loose pucks and battling for position."
Nobody is more anxious to get it going offensively than centre Mike Fisher, who totalled 16 shots on goal in the past two games but had nothing to show for it.
"What do you tell him?" asked Hartsburg. "I told him he's played great. If he keeps playing like that, even if he doesn't score, he's helping our team."
Fisher remains upbeat about his struggles to find the back of the net.
"It's better than getting no chances, that's for sure," he said. "I know it's just a matter of time."
Around the boards
Alex Auld (9-6-4) goes back between the pipes against the Capitals. But Hartsburg said that's not a knock against Martin Gerber, who was one of the Senators' best players in Chicago. "I don't think this team should worry about who's in net," said Hartsburg. "Martin proved (Wednesday) night that whoever goes in net, we're going to have good goaltending." ... Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for Saturday's visit by the Tampa Bay Lightning to Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200)