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Sens facing a big West test

Flames, Canucks and Oilers won't be holiday treats on road swing

Friday, 12.26.2008 / 3:19 PM ET / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
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Sens facing a big West test
They're heading west with little time to rest.

Now the holiday road gets serious for the Ottawa Senators, who jetted off to Calgary on Boxing Day to begin a crucial stretch of games in Western Canada. The Sens face off against the Flames on Saturday night (10 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), then tangle with the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday (10 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) before moving on to Edmonton for a Tuesday night matchup with the Oilers (10 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).

After opening an eight-game road stretch with a 6-4 loss Tuesday night in Philadelphia, the Senators are now winless in 10 games on the road (0-8-2) and have the fewest number of victories away from home (three) in the National Hockey League. Those are trends that have to start changing over the weekend if the Senators (12-15-5) are to vault from 12th place in the Eastern Conference to a playoff spot.

Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg again stressed the urgency of the situation following the team's 55-minute workout at the Bell Sensplex earlier today.

"The game in Philly, we didn't play very well but the disturbing part about that game is that we had a chance to get something out of it and we didn't," he said. "We're a team right now that has to approach these games much like a playoff game. Every shift, every period is so important for us and we have to, as a group, make sure we find a way to get points."

That being said, the Senators know they can't view the long road ahead as a large mountain that will require a supreme effort to climb.

"We know the big picture," said captain Daniel Alfredsson. "The approach we've got to take is (to find) the best way to get back in the picture. That's by taking it one game at a time. We're aware of our situation and we need a big road trip."

Added Hartsburg: "The big picture is there. The importance (for everyone) is to focus on what you're doing right now so things can turn around in the big picture. If we play the game worrying about the big picture, that's how you get into trouble.

"That focus is what we need every shift to allow us to get the end results and points out of those games."

The Senators are hopeful they'll have a healthier blue line when they get started against the Flames. Anton Volchenkov, who made an early exit from the Flyers game with an upper body injury, hit the road with his teammates today and Hartsburg said he's "a possibility for tomorrow."

"We'll see how he feels in the morning," added Hartsburg. "It's not as serious as we (first) thought. (Tuesday) night, it didn't look too good but he's made real good progress in the last two days.

"We're a team right now that has to approach these games much like a playoff game. Every shift, every period is so important for us and we have to, as a group, make sure we find a way to get points." - Craig Hartsburg
"We certainly missed him in Philadelphia. His grit and the way he competes and battles is something we need on the back end, for sure."

While Filip Kuba (groin) is travelling with the team, Hartsburg said his top-scoring blueliner remains out against the Flames.

"Every day, we're hoping (Kuba) makes progress but he won't play tomorrow," he said.
The Senators have recalled Brian Lee from their American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y., to help out on defence.

No matter who's on the ice, Alfredsson said the need for consistent play from one and all is vital right now.

"Everybody is frustrated because we're not playing as well as we should," he said. "We believe we are better (than we're showing). I don't know if it's because we haven't done well that we're down on ourselves and some players aren't performing as well as they usually do.

"It's a vicious circle for us going back to last year. We're going to have to try to right the ship and get the consistency (in our play). That's what we're lacking and that's what we'd like to get."

Around the boards

The Senators are 7-3-3 against the Flames since 1998-99 ... Saturday's game represents a homecoming of sorts for Ottawa's Shean Donovan and Dean McAmmond, who were both part of Calgary's run to the Stanley Cup final in 2004. "It's very exciting for them and, hopefully, it can filter through our whole team," said Hartsburg ... Forward Jesse Winchester (upper body) didn't  travel with the team on the trip.