NEW YORK -- Daniel Alfredsson says the Senators are going in the right direction.
It's hard to believe less than two months ago, fans and media were calling for this group to be ripped apart. But the Senators captain sees a bright future for the team.
The Senators, who face the New York Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden, are closing in on the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens.
"We were finding ways to lose early in the season," said Alfredsson. "Now, we've put a good stretch together, but we know there's no time for pats on the back. We've got to keep pushing ourselves."
Isn't that the truth? The Senators fell four games under .500 in mid-November and it appeared changes were needed, but GM John Muckler and coach Bryan Murray kept calm despite the difficult times.
It's helped that goalie Ray Emery has emerged as a top goalie, but what's been more impressive is the fact the club has grabbed 15-of-18 points in its last nine games -- playing for the most part, without top centres Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher, who are both nursing knee injuries.
"Our mentality since we lost Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher is that we know we have to play smarter and I think everybody is paying attention to details and they're working really hard," said Alfredsson.
MORE BALANCED OFFENCE
"Definitely, we see how the guys have stepped up. (Murray) is probably happy seeing guys getting more ice time and responding. When we get Vermette, Spezza, and Fisher back, it should give us a much more balanced offence.
"If we keep playing smart on the backside of the puck and keep working, we'll be better, there's no question about it."
Alfredsson doesn't buy the theory that the adversity the Senators went through in the early part of the season is going to help them build character as they move towards the playoffs.
"I don't think there's a recipe for success that says if you start off slow and have a great second half you're going to win the Cup," said Alfredsson. "You got to be able to handle success early on and continue throughout the season if you want to be a real good team.
"Consistency is very important. When I see the way we're playing now and the success that we're having, that could be a good thing because that's the way we're going to have to play going forward. We know we are hard to beat when we play our style."
The biggest factor is confidence. The Senators came back from a 2-0 deficit Tuesday to beat the Boston Bruins 5-2. The power play and penalty killing have also been more consistent.
"We feel we can come back especially and lately we've shown a lot of resilience. We've been finding a way," said Alfredsson. "If you can do that a few times, it will give you confidence. You're not going to do it every time, but we feel good.
"It's easy to say, how come we're winning more? Well, the effort is more consistent and we've boosted the specialty teams. It's easy to say, why didn't we buy into this earlier? Since we've had the injuries, I think everybody has really been bearing down even more, especially on the defensive side."