Sens must retain focus

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- This season's Senators, overconfident?

Not a chance.

Coach Bryan Murray issued a stern warning yesterday as the Senators prepared to face the cellar dwelling Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the Wachovia Center.

"I don't think -- and I hope this is a lesson well learned -- that we will take anybody lightly again," said Murray. "We have a little fall off in emotion sometimes, but I think the lesson that you learn from going through the first 20 games that we've gone through is that anybody, any night, can beat you and you had better be ready to play the game. You better have good focus and preparation."

The Senators embark on this eight-day, four-game road trip trying to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race -- and get to .500 -- after having posted a 9-11-1 record in the first 21 games of the regular season.

NEARING .500 MARK

With victories in three of their last four games, the Senators are slowly getting back to respectability. They are trying not to look ahead because maintaining focus has been one of the issues in the early going.

"We're almost there, but we haven't (turned the corner yet). Right now, we just have to focus on making sure we get back to playing our game," said Senators centre Mike Fisher. "We know that .500 and back into a playoff spot are within reach, but that isn't something we can think about right now."

Murray agrees. The Flyers haven't missed the playoffs since 1993-94, but a look at their lineup -- which includes Peter Forsberg -- indicates this is a team which should be better.

"All I'm looking at is how we're going to play the next game," said Murray. "Until you get back into the real serious hunt, it's hard to have a long-range plan. Our focus now is on Philadelphia, go in there and play well -- we didn't play well there last year -- and try to get the two points."

LIMITED ROLE: C Jason Spezza wasn't complaining yesterday after only playing four minutes in the third period of the Senators' 5-3 victory over the Wild on Monday. For the most part, Dean McAmmond replaced Spezza between Dany Heatley and Chris Kelly as the Senators tried to protect a lead. "He pretty much played everyone and we won, so that's all that really matters. We'll all get better as the game goes on and we'll get more confidence," said Spezza. "It's good for us that everyone was backchecking, everyone was supporting the puck well. Everyone was doing a lot of good things. You take whatever minutes you get. If you come up with a win, you're happy." Murray said he explained to Spezza why he didn't use him, but wouldn't elaborate. "We weren't lighting the world on fire at the time. When we got into the latter part of the game, I wanted to give McAmmond a few shifts," said Murray. "He's a responsible kind of a guy that has to get some ice time. I stuck (McAmmond) up with Heatley and Chris Kelly a couple of times. (Spezza) understands, I've talked to him about it and why we did it. He'll go back into the normal role in the next game."

AROUND THE BOARDS: Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, D Anton Volchenkov and G Ray Emery didn't practise yesterday. Alfredsson took a puck in the back of the leg in the final minute of Monday's game and could hardly make it to the bench, but will be in the lineup tonight. "I'm going to be fine," said Alfredsson. Volchenkov is simply sore from playing such a big role for the club. "He needs a day to recover from all the black marks he's got all over his body from blocking shots," said Murray ... Stacey McAlpine, the Calgary-based agent for Heatley and D Chris Phillips, was in town for Monday's visit by the Wild. Phillips will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, but there have been no contract talks between McAlpine and the Senators. That wasn't the purpose for his visit to Ottawa, either ... Murray on this road trip: "We're just going to play Philadelphia and then we're going to worry about Mr. (Jacques) Martin's team in Florida."


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