Clouston helps restore pride

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

ST. PAUL, MINN. -- If the Senators keep playing the way they have for the first five games under Cory Clouston, he won't have to worry about that interim tag.

He'll be here to stay.

And so too may some of the Senators.

Knowing they'll be under the microscope in the final 30 games of the season, the players have come to the realization they'd better be receptive to the changes that Clouston wants because their jobs might depend upon it.

The Senators have adapted to the more offensive and aggressive style of play Clouston has instituted and it helped spawn Ottawa's first three-game winning streak of the season as the team prepares to face the Wild tonight.

"(The losing) had been going on for a calendar year. When you see that many coaches let go, it does make you look in the mirror a little bit," Senators centre Jason Spezza said yesterday. "We knew that having another coach in here doesn't look very good on us as players.

"We wanted to make sure we came together as a club and hopefully get this thing turned around a little bit. We're playing a good style of hockey that suits us. We know that we have to do it his way. Everybody has been able to buy in and believe in it."

Not many people outside the Senators' dressing room were willing to give Clouston a chance when he took over from the fired Craig Hartsburg, but it's no coincidence the club has a 3-1-1 record since he took over as a renewed sense of confidence has taken over the team.

It's not hard to see it. All you have to do is look at what's happening on the ice. The players are more aggressive with the puck, the defence is chipping in to try to create offence and goalie Brian Ellliott has been coming up with the big saves.

"We've got a skating team and a lot of offensive guys," said winger Dany Heatley, who scored twice in Thursday's 5-2 win in Philadelphia over the Flyers. "This system is a little more geared to create turnovers and once we get the turnovers, going the other way to create scoring chances.

"(Playing defensively) was new to us for sure. A lot of the guys here are used to playing a little bit more of an open style. I feel that this system is a little bit of both. It's really aggressive, but I think it's very effective defensively as well."

PLAYOFFS A LONGSHOT

Making the playoffs is a longshot, but the Senators can restore their reputations with a strong finish.

Defenceman Chris Phillips said everybody was sick and tired of the losing.

"We dug ourselves into a pretty good hole," said Phillips. "It's one of those things where you think you've hit rock bottom, but maybe we didn't, and you have to hit that before you rebound. Maybe that's the case and it will be all up and forward from here."

Clouston said he has seen a change since arriving.

"We're moving the puck a lot better. We're skating a lot better and everything we've done is for a purpose," said Clouston. "They wouldn't have been receptive if they didn't believe in what we were selling. It's important that they trust and understand what we're trying to do is make them a better team. They need to believe and I think they do."

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


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