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Sens thinking outside the box

Penalty imbalance costing team momentum at critical times

Monday, 09.11.2009 / 2:32 PM / Features
By Rob Brodie  - OttawaSenators.com
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Sens thinking outside the box
Chris Kelly and the Senators know it's not a good thing when their penalty killers spend more time on the ice than their power-play unit (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images).
Call it Cory Clouston's latest version of thinking outside the box.

Fresh off a game in which special teams made the difference in a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Senators head coach spent the first day of a new week zeroing in on the imbalance between the time his power-play and penalty-killing units are spending on the ice.

While Clouston doesn't like the fact his team now leads the National Hockey League in average penalty minutes per game (20.2), he's more concerned about reversing two other significant numbers.

"We definitely have to be more disciplined," he said earlier today after the Senators' practice at Scotiabank Place. "But I'm going back to the opposite thing. We need to draw more penalties. It seems to be a momentum killer. I think we're averaging 3.8 power plays per game and 4.6 kills per game. We've got to try to get that number reversed, if anything."

It's a trend the Senators need to change Tuesday night, when the Edmonton Oilers bring their red-hot power play to Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).

With that thought in mind, the Senators spent time Monday going over some of the penalties on video. While captain Daniel Alfredsson said "it hasn't been that big of an issue lately," he acknowledged the fact the Devils rallied from a 2-0 deficit on the strength of three power-play goals grabbed everyone's attention about the issue.

"It’s more the minors that hurt," said Alfredsson. "We looked at some of the penalties today. You think some of them are questionable, but you know they’re going to call the hooking and holding. We’ve just got to be a little bit smarter and try to avoid penalties, especially in the offensive zone."

Special teams play has become even more vital since the NHL tightened its rules against obstruction in the years following the 2004-05 lockout season.

"As soon as they changed the rules a few years ago, you knew special teams were going to be important," said centre Chris Kelly, one of the leaders of the Senators' penalty-killing unit. "They were going to win or lose games for you. There’s not as many calls (now) as when the rules first changed, but it is an important (part of) the game. It cost us the last game."

What hurt the most Saturday – and inflated the Senators' penalty-minute totals – were a pair of overlapping 10-minute misconducts served by forwards Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu in the third period. That left Ottawa short almost an entire line while trying to preserve a 2-1 lead.

"As soon as they changed the rules a few years ago, you knew special teams were going to be important. They were going to win or lose games for you. There’s not as many calls (now) as when the rules first changed, but it is an important (part of) the game. It cost us the last game." - Chris Kelly
"We have to find a way to get out of the box or stay out of the box," said Clouston. "But it’s the misconducts, to me, that were, the most troublesome because we had to shorten our bench ... in the last 14 or 15 minutes. For the most part, we’ve been going with four lines, so that was the biggest thing that went against us. We were down to three lines.

"So all of a sudden, your guys that should be generating energy for you and drawing penalties are in the box. It’s like a 180-degree turnaround. They’re the ones now on the attack. We have no momentum. Our top guys end up killing penalties and it becomes kind of a snowball effect."

Brodeur honoured by AHL

Binghamton Senators goaltender Mike Brodeur has been named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 8. In three games with the B-Sens, Brodeur stopped 94-of-96 shots he faced (.979 save percentage), including all 25 in a 2-0 shutout of the Albany River Rats. His goals-against average for the week was a sparkling 0.67. Brodeur will receive an etched crystal award to recognize the achievement before an upcoming B-Sens game.

Around the boards

Defenceman Anton Volchenkov (right elbow) skated on his own for the first time this morning, his first step toward a return to the Senators lineup. "It's a real good sign that he got on the ice today," said Clouston. "The next step would be being able to shoot and pass without pain, then practising with us." ... Alfredsson sat out practice today to rest some bumps and bruises but is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday against the Oilers ... Fewer than 2,500 tickets remain available for that game.


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