'We've got to be sharper'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

Wade Redden doesn't even try to shy away from it: He's struggling.

"I haven't felt great. I haven't been really happy with way things have gone," the Senators assistant captain said yesterday. "But I'm going to turn it around. I've just got to work at it."

The veteran defenceman is hardly alone in that department going into tonight's game against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Place, with the Senators trying to stop a two-game skid.

Defensive mistakes are killing the Senators and that hasn't been a characteristic of this team in the past. But there have been big personnel changes this year and it looks like players are still trying to get comfortable with each other.

"It seems like we've got five guys on the ice and each guy is trying to do a different thing," said Redden. "That's one of the biggest things I've noticed: We haven't been cohesive. The play as a five-man unit hasn't been there and the breakdowns have cost us. The intensity level and the desperation haven't been there.

"You've got to be ready to go and compete. We've been guilty at times this year of being careless. We've got to be sharper. Guys realize that. We've got to be better in our own end ... It's a commitment we've got to work at. It just seems like we're out of sync."

That's what coach Bryan Murray has been trying to hammer home during three days of preparation for the Flames. He's talked a lot about playing a team game and not making costly errors, because the club doesn't have as many game breakers as it did last season.

"We're getting beat around our own net in coverage plays that should be automatic," said Murray. "We've been showing them those plays and hopefully, we'll be better at it."

Murray said the players have been listening because they aren't happy, either, with back-to-back home losses to Toronto and Buffalo.

"This is when you can make demands on the players. Not only the average players, but also the best players," he said. "You want guys to be responsible at both ends of the rink. I don't want to have to lose to do that, mind you.

"We have to be more together to get the offence we had last year. There were nights we wouldn't play very well last year, but we'd score six and win. We're getting some points across that it's more difficult when you're a wide open, creative team."

OLD LINEMATES: Senators C Dean McAmmond is familiar with the Flames and RW Jarome Iginla in particular. McAmmond played on the left side of a line with Iginla and Craig Conroy (Kings) during the 2001-02 season in Calgary. That year, McAmmond (21), Conroy (27) and Iginla (52) combined for 100 goals and played together for more than half of the season. "(Iginla's) got great great speed, a great shot and he's got a head for going to the net at the right time," said McAmmond. "He's got all the tools. The guy is a physical specimen. He prides himself on working hard and he's always the top guy in the fitness testing. That year, everything was going in for him, but he's always been a consistent performer."

GETTING TOGETHER: There was plenty of talk about the decision to reunite the line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson against the Flames with the offence struggling. "Everyone has got to chip in," said Heatley. "That's what everybody did last year. I thought we produced a little bit, but we got scoring from the other lines as well. I don't care what line you are on, everybody has to chip in and do their part for this team to be successful." There has been concern about the way Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson play together defensively. "I'm pretty sure we were all plus-25 or better last year so I don't think we're that bad defensively," said Spezza with a laugh. "And none of those (pluses) came on the power play."


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