Sens hoping new lines provide spark

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

The new-look Senators return to Scotiabank Place Tuesday night.

That's if coach Cory Clouston doesn’t shuffle his lines again.

After wrapping up a five-game road trip with only one victory -- a 4-3 shootout victory over the Ducks on Sunday in Anaheim -- the Senators hit their home ice Tuesday for a showdown against the hated Habs.

But, a lot has changed since the Senators last skated at home on Nov. 26 against Columbus. One of the most significant differences may be up front where struggling centre Jason Spezza is now skating on a line with Alexei Kovalev on the right and Nick Foligno.

The trio made its debut against the Ducks and the result was a two-point performance by Spezza — including his third goal of the season on the power play. Kovalev and Foligno both chipped in with assists as the Senators closed out the trip with a 1-3-1 record.

With the exception of the power play, Spezza and Kovalev haven’t really been on the same line since the pre-season. Milan Michalek, the club’s leading goal-scorer with 15 this season, was switched to play with Mike Fisher and captain Daniel Alfredsson.

Clouston had to do something to shake up the lines because what he was using wasn’t working. Kovalev hasn’t scored since Oct. 29 against the Lightning (a 14-game slump).

Spezza was pleased with the way they played together in their debut.

“Our line created some chances and that’s something we haven’t been doing as much,” said Spezza, who has only two goals and four assists for six points in the club’s last 15 games. “(Kovalev) and I were able to open some things up a little bit for each other.

“(Foligno) did a good job creating some traffic and a good forecheck. So, it’s a good positive sign for us. We were seeing each other and looking for each other. Hopefully, we can play together and build some confidence.”

Yes, the Senators are only going to be home long enough to unpack their bags, but they won’t have any more extended road trips before Christmas and they need to take advantage of their schedule at home if they’re going to stay in contention in the Eastern Conference.

Clouston was disappointed with the results. The club was outscored 21-12 in the five games and goaltender Brian Elliott had some difficult nights, especially in San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix. He was better Sunday in Anaheim, but allowed the Ducks to tie it quickly three times.

Clouston said he felt the club could have had better results.

“We could have easily been .500,” said Clouston. “Again, it’s a process and we have to get better, but we’re not going to look at the whole five games. Right now, we’re looking at the (Anaheim) game and we’re going to build off (the Ducks) game and we’re happy with the (win).

“In every game we learned a little about the team. You can play as hard as we did (against the Ducks) and show as much character as we did and you learn a lot. We kept working hard. We responded the right way every time they scored and we were rewarded for it.”

Expect to see Elliott make his ninth consecutive start. The club has a 3-4-1 record in that stretch.

“This is kind of an end to the first chapter of the year, getting this road trip over with,” said Elliott before leaving Anaheim. “Now we’re going back home and we’re going to be playing a lot of games every other night, so it’s going to be another big test.”


Videos

Photos