Sens finally turning corner?

The Ottawa Senators recent play could be used as springboard to bigger and better things after a...

The Ottawa Senators recent play could be used as springboard to bigger and better things after a slow start out of the gates. (Ottawa Sun/Blair Gable)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Less than a week ago, the Senators faced an immediate schedule that looked like a series of gruelling dentist appointments.

And now they are in a position to finish with it wearing a big, bright smile.

A win over the visiting Minnesota Wild tonight (7:30, Rogers Sportsnet) would give them three out of four victories against division leaders since a trip to Buffalo last Wednesday.

Prior to that 4-2 victory, the Senators were floundering aimlessly, having lost seven of eight. Two meetings with the Sabres, one with the New Jersey Devils and another with the Wild figured to be about as much fun as a root canal.

"We weren't looking at it as three or four tough games ahead of us ... because the way we were playing, every game was tough for us," defenceman Chris Phillips said after Saturday's 4-1 home win over Buffalo. "With a good effort against Minnesota, we could be looking back at how we won three out of four. If we do that all year, we're going to climb back up the standings."

Coach Bryan Murray would hope the Senators' recent play could be used as springboard to bigger and better things.

"There were games we played hard and didn't get rewarded," he said. "When we looked at the schedule a little while ago, these looked like they'd be deadly games to play in. Hopefully, they'll give us some confidence that we're a better team than we've shown."

For the turnaround point, the Senators need only look behind them to their goal crease, where Ray Emery has provided the necessary stability.

There is no question he has dislodged Martin Gerber as Ottawa's No. 1 goalie. He has stopped 70-of-76 shots and gone 2-1 since returning from an arm injury for the run against division kingpins. And while the Senators outshot the Sabres 41-24 Saturday, it was Emery's play early on that was later considered the key.

Particularly large was his breakaway stop off Chris Drury just past the five-minute mark.

"The first 10 minutes of the game was the difference ... Ray Emery made some huge stops," said Murray. "Goaltending is so much ... it's everything in this sport. Your goaltender has to give you the chance to win."

Emery deflected credit but did acknowledge the confidence of his coach and teammates.

"It feels good to have the support of your team," he said.

Along with Emery giving them the faith they won't get beaten by a soft goal, the Senators have picked up their play. Dany Heatley added some intensity Saturday, recording six hits along with his game-winning goal and an assist on Phillips' insurance marker. Andrej Meszaros played perhaps his game of the season and was rewarded in ice time, logging a team high 28:29. Mike Fisher was at his bullish best with nine hits. And captain Daniel Alfredsson appeared to be skating better than he has in awhile. He led the team with seven shots on goal.

In general, the Senators played with more passion, and at a level they'll have to maintain. Against Minnesota and beyond.

"We've been trying to play with desperation for awhile," said Alfredsson. "That's our mindset. We've got to give it everything we have."

They also can't afford to let their guard down, especially with a strong team like Minnesota up next.

"We played with emotion and character, and it was good to see," Antoine Vermette said. "Now we have to do it every night. Winning a couple in a row wouldn't hurt us. We had a big win in Buffalo, a big win here, and we have to build from that game and get it going."


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