Sens stumble in shootouts

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

Right now the Senators need a Jussi Jokinen as much as they need an Olli Jokinen.

After winning their first two shootouts of the season, they have now lost four straight. They haven't scored a goal in their last three games that have extended past overtime, and they are now O-fer their last 10 shootout attempts.

This from a team with an NHL-leading 213 goals, too.

"It's a breakaway, it's not rocket science," Dany Heatley said after being one of Ryan Miller's victims -- along with Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson -- in Saturday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Sabres in Buffalo. "We've all had breakaways before."

Nobody does it better than Jussi Jokinen, the Dallas Stars rookie, who has had eight shootout breakaways and scored on all eight.

Meanwhile, Heatley and Alfredsson are among the league's top snipers with 33 and 34 goals, respectively, and are coach Bryan Murray's go-to guys in shootouts. With six tries, each has scored twice and each won a game for Ottawa.

Fisher (twice), Martin Havlat, Jason Spezza and Patrick Eaves have also tried their hand at shootouts, all coming up empty.

"We were good the first couple of times, we're just having some bad luck right now," said Fisher, who put a nice move on Miller on Saturday but couldn't get his shot over the goalie's big catching mitt. "I don't really have an explanation."

Alfredsson was also turned back by Miller, while Heatley didn't even get a shot on net.

"I just lost it," said Heatley. "I tried to make a move and it just went off the end of my stick.

"It's a game in itself," he added of the shootout. "(Goalies around the league) watch you, you watch them. You have to try different things."

About now, Murray might want to try different players.

While hotshot Washington rookie Alexander Ovechkin (34 goals) is next on the shootout list with six goals (in nine tries), others to have success in the new game decider are more like Jokinen (11 goals) and aren't exactly established or noted scorers.

Columbus rookie Jaroslav Balastik has eight goals in regulation time and is third in shootouts, having scored on 5-of-6 tries. Next is Stars defenceman Sergei Zubov, who has nine goals and has been successful on 5-of-8 shootout chances. New Jersey's Viktor Kozlov (11 goals) also has five in shootouts (on eight opportunities), as does Edmonton 15-goal scorer Ales Hemsky (on nine shootouts).

"That's four games now we've lost (a chance to get) a bonus point," said Murray, whose team, like all others, spends time at practice working on its breakaway skills. "We have the people (to do it)."

COULD HAVE CLOSED GAP

The four extra points would have the Senators one behind the conference-leading Carolina Hurricanes today instead of five (with two games in hand). Points are becoming particularly precious as teams battle for seedings down the stretch, and the "playoff-style" hockey provided by the Senators and Sabres on Saturday night is likely to become more common in the last two months -- thus increasing the likelihood of shootouts.

The odds of Ottawa being in a shootout tonight would appear to be small, with the lowly Pittsburgh Penguins in town, but there are also a number of reasons to believe the conference cellar dwellers could make things uncomfortable for the Senators.

For one, Sidney Crosby will be back in the lineup and making his first regular-season appearance in the capital. The rookie sensation missed last Wednesday's meeting between the teams in Steeltown with the flu, a game Ottawa won 7-2.

Teams that are out of the playoff race are expected to pull off a few surprises in the ensuing weeks, however, as their guys are either playing for a new contract or hoping to catch the eye of a contending club looking to bulk up before the trade deadline.

As well, teams coming off a road trip, as the Senators are, often suffer letdowns in their first game back home. And the Senators are in no position to take anyone for granted these days.

Never before has it been more evident they really could use the help of an Olli Jokinen, the star centre of the Florida Panthers it's believed the Senators covet.

Although they thumped the Penguins less than a week ago, it was their only win in a three-game excursion that started in New Jersey. It was also just their eight victory -- against eight losses -- since Jan. 2.


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