Senators flu the coop

Senators defenceman Wade Redden (right) fights for control of the puck against Lightning winger...

Senators defenceman Wade Redden (right) fights for control of the puck against Lightning winger Mathieu Darche on Saturday. SUN MEDIA/Blair Gable

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

As the Senators cross the halfway mark of the schedule, they'll get a chance to enjoy a steady diet of home cooking.

To wash it down, they best look to the orange juice in their fridges.

"Lots of Vitamin C," Mike Fisher said, moments after scoring in overtime Saturday, when asked what he and his teammates are going to need most in the battle with their next opponent.

Separate water bottles, hand soap and some rest might be wise, too.

Dean McAmmond was the latest to be bitten by the flu bug when he had to leave in the second period of the win over the Lightning on Saturday night. Randy Robitaille was ill in Washington New Year's Day and Joe Corvo has missed the last two games with the spreading virus.

It probably didn't help that Corvo took sick on the road then had to fly home with team, or that he showed up at the rink the next morning, appearing to feel no better.

AVOID THE SICK

This is a time to stay away from the contagious.

"I'm a little bit concerned," said coach John Paddock, who gave the team yesterday off. "It's a good time, there's five days (between games), but I'm a little concerned the flu is going to go through our team. We've had three guys have it in the last (week) so we're going to have to maybe fight that off and get some rest for some players. I don't know if guys are going to be back by next weekend to get our lineup straightened out a little bit."

It's unlikely Paddock was purposely looking past Thursday's home game against the Sabres with the "next weekend" reference, but Saturday does mark what will be at least the most anticipated contest before March (that's when the Senators visit Anaheim for a rematch with last spring's Stanley Cup final foes).

The Jan. 12 Scotiabank Place showdown with the Red Wings will be a meeting of conference leaders, as well as the proverbial "measuring stick" with which the Senators can truly gauge their abilities.

After Detroit's visit, the Senators host the Islanders the next night, travel to Washington for a Jan. 15 tilt with the Capitals, then return home for two more games -- against Carolina Jan. 17 and Tampa Jan. 19 -- before a four-game road trip.

EMBARRASSMENT RISK

"What we we've got to address is our goals against and defending a lead," Paddock said of the preparation plans heading into the Buffalo game. "This is probably one of our last short sprints of conditioning, so we'll work them really hard at least one day. Just try to keep our game going ahead a little bit here. Hopefully, we get some more bodies back."

The Senators are at risk of being embarrassed by the Red Wings if they don't play better than they have in most of their last four outings, which have included two losses to the Caps, a blown three-goal lead against Buffalo and a flash of resiliency after starting horribly against Tampa.

Heading into last night's game against Chicago, the Red Wings were leading the overall standings with a 31-8-3 mark for a seven-point lead on the second-place Senators, who had a game in hand.

"We've been pretty consistent, aside from the seven-game stretch, we've won a lot of hockey games," Senators centre Jason Spezza said, with passing mention of a November swoon, when assessing the team's first half. "We've played pretty well. Of late, we're playing a little bit too loose defensively and we've given up a few too many goals, but all in all, if you told us at the start of the year we'd be leading the conference by (nine) points going into the second half, I think we'd take it."


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