What next, Senators?

Captain Daniel Alfredsson hopes to point the way to brighter days for the Ottawa Senators beginning...

Captain Daniel Alfredsson hopes to point the way to brighter days for the Ottawa Senators beginning tonight, when they face Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in Pittsburgh. (Ottawa Sun File/Don Wilcox)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:50 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- The pressure and the losses keep on mounting.

Now, all eyes are on Senators owner Eugene Melnyk with the club stuck in the midst of a five-game losing skid going into tonight's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet).

While team president Roy Mlakar said Monday that Melnyk remains "supportive," the Senators are testing the owner's patience as the fan outcry for the heads of GM John Muckler and coach Bryan Murray picks up steam.

"There's always pressure when you take this kind of job," said Murray yesterday. "But I feel good that these guys are working hard and playing hard and that it's going to happen.

"The good thing about being an experienced or veteran coach is that you've gone through scenarios like this. I've been through seven-game losing streaks and eight games where we get a tie or two (with other teams) and we've been able to rebound and do a good job. I believe that will happen here."

Well, it better happen quick because Melnyk certainly didn't buy this team to look at the NHL standings at his Barbados home and see the Senators blowing leads and mired in 13th place in the Eastern Conference.

But captain Daniel Alfredsson, who maintained "that's not my area" when asked about possible changes, said the players haven't given up on Murray and the coaching staff and the proof is in the way the club played in a 4-3 overtime loss to Washington on Monday and Wednesday's 5-4 setback to the Thrashers.

"I think the way we are playing, you can say we are playing really hard. The coach can only do so much," said Alfredsson. "If you want to suggest we've quit on the coach, then you haven't watched our games."

There is a sense around the NHL something is going to happen in Ottawa and that could be a significant player move. Muckler has been working the telephones and there's talk he may have made a call to Dallas, where the Stars have an abundance of centres. The Senators are in desperate need of a No. 2 pivot man.

"We can't control that (speculation)," said centre Jason Spezza. "I don't think (Muckler) is going to do something just for the sake of doing something. When you've lost as many as we have, it's always a possibility, but you can't concern yourself with it."

The names of winger Antoine Vermette and defenceman Anton Volchenkov have been mentioned most prominently as trade bait, but Murray said it's difficult to give up on young talent.

"You can't get rid of young players because it's hard to replace good players," said Murray.

"All I can say right now is, the cap system the way it is set up, to do anything -- and I'm not a manager -- you almost have to have dollar-for-dollar trades and matches. That's very difficult to do.

"We feel for the most part here that we have a good core, a number of young players and I think what (Muckler) would more than likely be asked about is the young players. They're not asking about the older guys. I would think that John would be somewhat reluctant to do very much."

The Senators believe it's on them to find a way to get this season back on track, but that won't be easy tonight against young Penguins phenoms Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

"We've been playing well at times. We just haven't put it together for a full game," said defenceman Chris Phillips. "We just have to do a better job of knowing we have to continue that pressure and keep taking it to them, rather than sitting back and trying not to lose.

"We have to do what is working for us and take it to them."


Videos

Photos