Time to get back to work

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

Before they dropped a puck on the ice yesterday at Scotiabank Place, Senators coach Bryan Murray gathered the boys for a little chat at centre ice.

There was no screaming, no yelling ... and no riot act read.

But Murray wanted to make sure the message hit home that he's not satisfied with the way the club has been playing lately and he wants it straightened out before it becomes an issue.

The Senators will face the No. 1-ranked Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night at HSBC Arena before a home-and-home series with the Montreal Canadiens, a team Ottawa is battling for the No. 4 position in the East.

"We've got three big games. We have to get back to the work ethic that we had before the all-star break," said Murray. "I thought we let ourselves fall off somewhat.

"There's a tendency to let (somebody else) do it and maybe not work as hard in practice or maybe in the games as we had been.

'A REAL RACE'

"It's going to be a real race down the stretch here. With 28 games to go, every game is going to be important. We've got people in our division that are really working hard to get there as well.

"There are a lot of things that are going to come into play here. We know there's not going to be one easy game down the stretch. So, you have to be ready to play accordingly."

Sure, the Senators were able to get a point in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday, but the reality is they also gave an extra point to a team battling for a spot in the Northeast Division. The club can't afford to let that happen.

The Senators should have been boosted by the recent return of centres Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher from knee injuries.

Instead, Murray is concerned some players are letting other factors bother them.

"We've got people looking for more ice time. We've got people looking for line combinations. We've got everybody looking for everything, but what the real focus should be: 'Play hard together. Whoever we're with on a given night, let's get back to the work ethic that we had going for us and we showed we could do that in the third period.'

"We're kind of saying: 'Well, I'll put Spezza back with Alfredsson and Heatley in the third period and we'll just win the game.' Well, it doesn't quite work that way.

"They have to play hard. At this time of year, and in the playoffs, it's always about playing your position and working hard. That's what it is. You hope that the players who are capable of scoring get the job done and help you win the game."

COMRIE SOLID: The Senators have been pleased with the way C Mike Comrie has performed since arriving in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes last month. He has five goals and four assists in 13 games with the Senators. "Anytime you play with new players, you have to learn their tendencies," said Comrie. "With the group that we have, sometimes it's just easier to read and react with the people that we have." Murray has liked what he has seen. "He's a skilled offensive player. He sees the ice pretty well. He's a competitive guy. He can't really be considered a top defensive guy or physical player because of his size and strength. But, with the puck, he's really smart. People like (Comrie) are an example of guys that aren't big and strong, but are willing to go play competitively around the net. That's what I'm trying to encourage more people to do on our team."

AROUND THE BOARDS: Murray didn't change the lines yesterday. That meant C Chris Kelly remained with Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson while Jason Spezza skated with Peter Schaefer and Mike Fisher ....RW Patrick Eaves, who hurt his ankle against the Leafs, left the ice early in practice. He is expected to suit up against the Sabres. "It's just a little twist," said Murray. "He was fine, he was just a little tender and when I saw him kind of favouring it out there, I just kind of kicked him off the ice."


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