Kuba looking good to go
Senators blueliner appears ready to face off against Rangers on Saturday
Mechanical problems with their charter kept the Ottawa Senators away from home for one more night, with the team spending Thursday evening in Boston after its 6-4 loss to the Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. A little bit of added insult to injury, one might suggest, for a weary group of players anxious to return to the capital after an eight-game road swing that produced only three points and a 1-6-1 record.
There appears to be at least one ray of positive light awaiting the Senators when they return to Scotiabank Place on Saturday night to face the New York Rangers (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Head coach Craig Hartsburg indicated that defenceman Filip Kuba, who has missed the entire road trip while recovering from a groin injury, "should be ready to play tomorrow."
"It'll be a big help for us, for sure," Hartsburg said about getting his highest-scoring defenceman (22 points in 31 games) back in the lineup. "We've obviously missed him. That's an understatement, really, and it'll be good to get him back."
Certainly, it's welcome news for the Senators, who now stand 13th in the Eastern Conference – 13 points outside of a playoff position – and badly need a quick turnaround if they're to keep their 12-year run of Stanley Cup playoff appearances alive.
"We haven't been playing well and it's been a long stretch," said captain Daniel Alfredsson. "It's been tough but it's something I think we can work ourselves out of. We can't feel sorry for ourselves and we've got to believe that we can turn this around."
The Senators had a chance to get a start on that against the Bruins, battling back from an early 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the second period. But a couple of bad giveaways in their own end led to Boston goals led to back-breaking goals in the third.
"I do believe we're working really hard to get wins," said Alfredsson, who was guilty of one of the giveaways. "We're very fragile, too, and when we do get a goal (scored) against us or things don't go our way, I can see we do get away from our gameplan and don't follow through and trust the group.
Hartsburg knows only a collective effort can achieve the desired result.
"There are parts of our team personnel-wise that maybe aren't (as good as) we need to be a top team, but I think the biggest problem is having a total commitment from every guy for 60 minutes to do the right thing," he said. "It's not one guy or one line (breaking down). Everybody seems to take their turn at it. To me, that's about that commitment to your team and we haven't been able to get that.
"It's been a frustrating, frustrating thing. Part of the coaching staff's philosophy is the team is the most important thing and we haven't been able to get that through."
Elliott recalled from Binghamton
On the heels of a recent stretch of standout play, goaltender Brian Elliott has been recalled from the Senators' American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y. In 30 games this season with the B-Sens, Elliott has posted an 18-8-1 record with a 2.31 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He will be the Canadian team starter for the AHL All-Star Classic, set for Jan. 26 in Worcester, Mass., and was the league's goaltender of the month in December.
"It's pretty exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time," Elliott said about returning to Ottawa. "There could be an opportunity for you (in the NHL). I basically have to keep doing what I've been doing all year and, hopefully, I'll have some success at the next level."
Around the boards
Defenceman Anton Volchenkov (upper body) still isn't ready to return to action. But fellow blueliner Brian Lee, who left the Bruins game early because of illness, is expected to play. So, too, is forward Nick Foligno, who also didn't finish the game in Boston. "Nick is feeling a lot better today," said Hartsburg. "I wouldn't say he's 100 per cent but it looks like he'll be fine to play tomorrow." ... Defenceman Matt Carkner has been returned to Binghamton ... Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for Saturday's game, while 2,500 are left for Tuesday's visit by the Carolina Hurricanes (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).