Sens' shootout woes grow

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Jason Spezza figures it's time for a change.

After scoring on three of his first four opportunities in the shootout earlier this season, the Senators centre has missed his last two attempts, including a shot into the glove of Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas in Thursday night's 4-3 loss.

"Players only have so many moves in their toolbox and I think the (scoring) percentages are going down," said Spezza. "You've got to have a couple of moves in your arsenal and change it up."

It's a cat-and-mouse game between the shooters and goaltenders, who are constantly scouting what the others are doing. Unfortunately for the Senators, they've been the mouse way more often than the cat. Thursday's loss dropped their record in the shootout to 1-5 this season. Since winning the first shootout ever on opening night in 2005, the Senators are now 8-22 all-time in the skills competition.

Only Spezza (3-for-6), Jarkko Ruutu (1-for-3) and captain Daniel Alfredsson (1-for-5) have scored for the Senators in the shootout this season in a total of 25 attempts.

"For some guys, taking the wide angle works better just to change it up. I've kind of got stuck doing the same thing the last few times because I had lot of success with it early in the year," said Spezza, the only Senator to have participated in all five shootouts this season.

"It's tough in a tight situation like that to really change your mind. I think if you score or you don't score, you've got to mix it up because the goalies all watch tapes and get scouting reports. You can't be too predictable."

Spezza said he doesn't need to incorporate a new move, just vary the ones he has. He had success earlier this year snapping it high to the glove side. He shot high over the bar against the Montreal Canadiens Jan. 17 and had Thomas make a nice glove save Thursday night.

"You don't need a new move, you just need two or three options. In a game, I've got two or three options when I come in on a breakaway because I'm not thinking. I shoot top glove, five-hole or I pull to my backhand. A goalie can know those three moves, but he doesn't know which one you're going to do. When it happens at game speed, it's a little easier, whereas in the shootout, you have to be a little more creative," he said.

Thomas stopped all five shooters he faced Thursday night, including Senators defenceman Brendan Bell, a shootout hero in the minors where he was 13-for-15, but had the unorthodox Thomas stymie his trademark deke to the five-hole.

"It's probably the wrong guy for (Bell) to go against," said Spezza.

"He probably would have scored on a normal goalie because he had him beat, but only Timmy could click his heels together like that."

Change for the good

It's just two games, but the change in philosophy under new coach Cory Clouston is pretty evident -- and simple. Instead of backing up, the Senators are moving forward. Their forecheck is more aggressive and Clouston's got his defence standing up in the neutral zone, confident they are going to get support from at least one forward. "Cory brings a different outlook on the game and maybe that's what we needed in this locker room was just a different approach," said F Nick Foligno. "We were so used to being aggressive from the years past, it's hard just to sit back. Now Cory's got us going full steam ahead. It's creating a lot of chances for us. The way we're playing right now is aggressive and I think every guy on the team loves that." ... "That's the strength of our defence is their size. Now they're getting a chance to use it, I think," said Spezza. "That's why they've turned the puck over more. I think we're going to make ourselves a tougher team to play against."

Hear and there

There's a chance D Alexandre Picard could play tonight. He's missed the last couple of games with a sore wrist/hand ... Foligno might have been the best Senator on the ice against the Bruins, two games after being a healthy scratch against the Washington Capitals last Sunday. "It's obviously a wakeup call. Any time you get scratched it's not a good feeling, especially when you're a competitive guy like me," he said. "I wanted to come back and show my teammates as well as myself that I can do the job, that I can be counted on and be accountable."

CHRIS.STEVENSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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