Sens 'happy' to start new year

DON BRENNAN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:31 AM ET

In just his 75th game behind the Senators bench, Cory Clouston moved ahead of Rick Bowness as the third-winningest coach in franchise history.

The 3-2 shootout victory over the New York Islanders on New Year’s Eve was the 40th for the 40-year-old Clouston, who is now 40-27-8 since taking over from the fired Craig Hartsburg 11 months ago today.

The win also improved the Senators’ 2009-10 record to 21-16-6, which places them sixth in the Eastern Conference and, heading into last night’s action, five points ahead of the ninth-place Philadelphia Flyers.

The Flyers are in town for a 1 p.m. matinee Sunday.

“With the effort and execution, for the most part, we can’t be anything but happy,” Clouston said when asked to assess the season at the midway point.

“Every other team can say very similar things, but where we are right now in the standings, if someone were to ask, with this many injuries, and to this many key guys, I think we’d take it.”

The Senators, who will be without Daniel Alfredsson (shoulder) and Jason Spezza (knee) until February, have also had to go stretches without the likes of Pascal Leclaire, Anton Volchenkov, Chris Neil, Filip Kuba, Nick Foligno and Shean Donovan. Yet their 15-6-3 home record has kept them in the thick of things.

Now, with 24 of their remaining 41 games on the road, the Senators need to find success away from Scotiabank Place. They’ve won just 6-of-17 road games this season.

“We’ve found ways to pull together as a team. We’re showing some good signs,” said Mike Fisher, the team’s MVP over the first half.

“We still think we can play a little bit better, but for the most part, we’ve done some good things and we’re starting to get better later in games. We’re in a playoff spot, where we want to be, and we’ve got to have an even better second half if we want to (make the playoffs).”

Clouston’s system is especially put to the test when Alfredsson and Spezza are injured. So is the character of the club.

“When our top guys go out, we know we can’t open up the games,” said Fisher. “We have to play tight. We have to play good defensively. It may not be pretty, but as long as we get it done ... we’ve been pretty good.

“It shows our depth. Guys on lines three and four are really helping right now, big-time. We’ve been down in games and come back, we’re never quitting.”

Ice chips

Islanders tough guy Tim Jackman was reportedly sent to hospital to have his eye checked out after getting thrashed by Matt Carkner at the end of the first period Thursday. Carkner was objecting to Jackman’s hit on Chris Campoli at the buzzer. “He knew the time was running down and he went ahead and ran Campoli ... (it was) a pretty dirty hit,” Carkner said. “I was pretty sure he knew I was going to be coming. I’ve got to jump in and protect my teammates, make sure that it doesn’t happen again.” ... The Senators have won three straight shootouts, including the last two without Alfredsson. They have been successful in their last five attempts in shootouts, with Alex Kovalev and Fisher each scoring twice, and Ryan Shannon netting the other. Shannon’s scoring streak was stopped at three games against the Islanders, but he did get the winner in the shootout. Nothing but net? Not really. He hit a couple of posts and had the puck land just over the line. “Way too close,” said Shannon.


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