Time for Sens to work it out

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

If the Senators are going to be successful this season, they'll have to learn the merits of hard work.

They better learn pretty quickly.

In the wake of the 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday at Scotiabank Place, Senators coach Craig Hartsburg gave the players yesterday off to rest and relax before the Florida Panthers arrive Wednesday to kick off a stretch of four games in six days.

On Friday, the Anaheim Ducks make their first visit to Ottawa since the 2007 Stanley Cup final. Then the Battle of Ontario resumes Saturday in Toronto as the Senators start a four-game road trip, which continues in Buffalo Monday.

While the Senators have a respectable 2-2-1 record to start the season, Hartsburg is scratching his head over why his message about playing a full, 60-minute game has fallen on deaf ears.

NO EXCUSES

Perhaps it's because the Senators have had a couple of long breaks and the players need to get back into the routine of playing games on a regular basis.

Hartsburg isn't going to let that be an excuse, especially after the ugly display against the Bruins.

Such losses bother Hartsburg; he knows this team can do better. A lot of players must step up if the Senators are going to contend.

"It might be (a lack of playing games), but as far as the competitive part, you should be able to play a game (for 60 minutes) in August or December," Hartsburg said after the Bruins game.

"There's a pride to winning battles and not losing any battles. We lost too many (against the Bruins).

"You've got to be able to play with the puck to create offence and to compete for loose pucks. We had some flurries in the third finally when we started to work and when we started to compete. The first two periods I don't think we generated hardly at all because we were light and you can't play light."

With the schedule about to heat up, the Senators can't afford any slip or inconsistency like they had against the Bruins, a Northeast Division rival they'll have to beat as the playoff race heats up.

The Senators have shown spurts of being a powerhouse, but haven't exactly run over anybody in the first five games.

Even after Friday's 6-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, Hartsburg was concerned about the let-up in the third after the Senators pulled out to a 5-1 lead.

Senators players themselves know they have a lot of work to do and need to cut down on mistakes.

"The chances we gave up (against the Bruins) were pretty high quality," admitted centre Jason Spezza. "We didn't bury our chances and against a team like that, you've just got to be patient.

GOAL IS CONSISTENCY

"It can be a lot of things. In this case, it's just playing a full game. We played full games against Pittsburgh (in Stockholm), but besides that we probably haven't played a full game. Our focus is going to be on the fact that we've got a lot hockey coming up and we've got to become a consistent team that's tough every night."

The Senators are fortunate they've had time to work on their game. The practice time has been valuable for Hartsburg to try to get across the work ethic and type of hockey he wants.

Spezza is confident the Senators will be able to work it out.

"We don't want to make excuses, but I think we'll get more consistent and we'll have more legs behind us as we get playing."


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