No guarantees for Senators

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 12:08 PM ET

TORONTO -- As the Senators were strolling into Scotiabank Place before their flight here yesterday, workers were putting up two huge murals from last year's playoffs depicting the Red Zone and the players shaking hands with members of the Penguins at the end of Round 1.

At this point, the Senators can only hope they get another chance to repeat that kind of scene this spring, because on the eve of the playoffs, they still have yet to book a ticket to the NHL's big dance and they might even need help along the way.

The only guarantee the Senators were willing to give is they won't go down without a fight. A sly television type tried to draw Jason Spezza into guaranteeing a victory over the Maple Leafs tonight at the Air Canada Centre, but the Senators centre wouldn't play that game.

"I'm confident we are going to win," said Spezza. "I'm not guaranteeing anything."

It's fair to say the Senators, who finish the season at home tomorrow vs. Boston, have not played two regular-season games this big since they had to win back-to-back games against Detroit and Buffalo on the final weekend of the year to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 1997.

Of course, the Senators could help their own cause by getting on the scoreboard. Blanked in back-to-back losses to the Bruins on Saturday (4-0) and the Habs on Tuesday (3-0), Ottawa hasn't scored in a span of 141:02.

Trying to get the offence going, coach and GM Bryan Murray split up Spezza and Dany Heatley in practice yesterday. Heatley skated with Mike Fisher and Martin Lapointe. Spezza had Cory Stillman on his left side and Shean Donovan on the right.

Since captain Daniel Alfredsson didn't skate, it's expected he'll slide in where Donovan was yesterday. Stillman, out with a leg injury for two games, won't decide whether he's going to play until after the morning skate.

"I'd say 50/50. There's a chance I will play. Obviously, I skated (yesterday), which was a step," said Stillman, who hadn't been on the ice since he suffered the injury last Thursday against the Sabres. "But I will see how everything feels (today)."

Murray refused to say if he'd use those line combinations if Stillman is healthy.

"You're trying to get me to tell (Leafs coach) Paul Maurice what we're doing and I don't want to do that," said Murray.

Heatley, who hasn't scored in four games, knows he has to do more. He said if he's not playing with Spezza, he'll understand.

"We've done that in the past. We haven't scored in the last couple of games," said Heatley. "(If it happens), hopefully, it works and we can generate some chances."

Spezza said the key is not to be nervous.

"We've been forcing things and we haven't been as patient with the puck," said Spezza. "Nobody wants to do the wrong thing. Nobody wants to make mistakes, but you have to be able to let that go and not be afraid of mistakes."

OFF THE GLASS

Murray, who took over from coach John Paddock on Feb. 25, has a 6-8-2 record behind the bench. Murray was asked yesterday if he should have made the change earlier. "I didn't want to fire (Paddock) at all. I was hoping that things would work and everybody would get back on board," said Murray. "If it would have worked (right away), we would have felt it was perfect. We could end up .500 with two wins and I knew there were lots of things that had to be shored up. To be fair to (Paddock), there are some players who haven't played to the level they played at last year. They let themselves off a little bit and to get it back is more difficult than maybe they even thought." ... Senators G Martin Gerber, who is still searching for career win No. 100, will make his 16th straight start. G Vesa Toskala will play for the undermanned Leafs.


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