Time 'to get back on track'

Ottawa Senators defenceman Wade Redden will get back to work today when his team faces the New York...

Ottawa Senators defenceman Wade Redden will get back to work today when his team faces the New York Islanders at Scotiabank Place. (Ottawa Sun File/Errol McGihon)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

The Christmas presents have been opened and the turkey eaten and now reality, like heavy wet snow on Boxing Day, has settled back on the Senators.

Reality can be a cruel opponent when your name is on the wrong side of the ledger.

The Senators enter tonight's game against the New York Islanders with 37 points after 37 games, poster boys for mediocrity and, if you haven't noticed, mediocrity doesn't cut it anymore.

The cutoff for the playoffs the last two seasons have been 91 and 92 points. The Senators currently have those 37 points, which means, if form holds, they will need about 55 points in their last 45 games to make the playoffs.

That's surely a difficult task for this inconsistent lot, starting tonight at Scotiabank Place against the Islanders, which kicks off a stretch where the Senators play 10 of 12 games at home.

Not that that is good news. They're 6-9 at home this season.

"We have to be more consistent because when we do lose games, it's because we're bad. You're going to lose some games, but it can't be by not showing up for games. We can't have poor efforts," said Senators defenceman Wade Redden yesterday after the club got back to work after the two-day Christmas break.

Senators coach Bryan Murray put his team through a 65-minute practice and threw out a challenge to his players who had breakthrough years last season to get back to that level.

With offensive catalyst Jason Spezza out for about a month with a knee injury, the Senators need the supporting cast to step into some starring roles now and then.

"We've got a need for guys who were 20-goal scorers last year to get back on track and make that contribution," said Murray. "We need Mike Fisher to score. We need Peter Schaefer to score. We need Patrick Eaves to get more chances. You go down the list of guys who where high-end players last year and on a good roll and everything fell into place last year. They've got to make it fall into place in the second half through effort and determination."

Fisher had 22 goals last season and is on pace for 18 this year, not a huge falloff, but he's now playing with the club's two top wingers in Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson during Spezza's absence and more is expected.

Schaefer had 20 last year and is on pace for 13 this year.

Eaves, as a rookie, had 20 goals in 58 games last year, but is on pace for 13.

"It's so tight when you look at the standings. We've got a lot of games at home so we've got to get on a roll and start climbing up the standings, starting (tonight)," said Fisher. "We know the situation we're in. We know if we play our best we can be a great team. We're confident we're going to get better, but we know we have a lot of work to do."

The fact is the Senators cannot afford to lose games against teams like the Islanders and Rangers, who visit Scotiabank Place on Friday.

They are teams just slightly ahead of the Senators in the Eastern Conference standings, who squared off against each other last night.

"I think (the Islanders) are right there with us and the Rangers are right there with us. Teams of that nature, all the games are big, but certainly these games are real important," said Murray.


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