ATLANTA ó Their coach is certainly on board.
Mired in a four-game losing streak and coming off a 4-1 loss to the last-place Hurricanes to start a five-game road trip, Senators bench boss Cory Clouston welcomed a 10-minute players-only closed-door meeting following Sundayís defeat at the RBC Center in Raleigh.
As the Senators prepare to face the Thrashers Tuesday night at Philips Arena, Clouston is hopeful the players will be able to put whatever solutions they came up with during that session to good use as the club tries to halt its longest losing streak of the season.
ď(The meeting) is great. It shows the guys care. I donít know exactly what was said in there, but we need guys to step up and take a leadership role. Itís one thing to say it, but youíve got to follow through on it,Ē Clouston said following a one-hour practice yesterday.
ďTo me, thatís what integrity is all about. Youíve got to practise what you preach. (They) donít want to hear my voice all the time. The veterans have to take ownership of the team and of the dressing room. Guys have to step up, either by what they say or by their actions and following what they say. To me, words mean nothing. You have to go out and do it. Thatís the most important thing.Ē
Troubled by injuries to four forwards, the Senators are ranked No. 7 in the East with the same number of points (48) as the Canadiens, who are at No. 8. But the Flyers (47), Islanders (46), Thrashers (44) and Lightning (44) arenít far back.
By the time the trip wraps up next Monday in Boston after stops in New York and Montreal, the Senators donít want to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
The message at the meeting was simple: Get your act together.
ďThe mindset is weíve got to get back on the winning track,Ē said Ottawa winger Chris Neil. ďItís like weíre beating ourselves out there. Weíre just working against one another, instead of working with each other. Weíve just got to get back to the way we can play.
ďOur forwards arenít coming back hard enough, our defencemen arenít moving it up quick enough. Itís a full team effort. We know our goalies are going to be big for us. Itís desperation time. Weíre a borderline playoff team and youíve got to win games to keep climbing up. We arenít doing that right now. Weíre putting ourselves in a tight situation.Ē
Though there has been plenty of focus on goaltender Pascal Leclaire, a player who has to step it up is centre Mike Fisher. He hasnít scored since Dec. 16 against the Sabres, a stretch of 13 games. Fisher had been one of Ottawaís most consistent forwards before he went into his funk.
ďIíve felt like my game wasnít what it used to be or what it was,Ē said Fisher, who skated with Nick Foligno and Neil at practice. ďIíve got to start skating and getting in those areas (to score). Iíve got to create more. I havenít made good decisions with the puck lately.
ďPart of that is pressing and overthinking. Iíve just got to get back to doing simple things. It will come. I know Iíve got to be better and that Iím relied on to produce more offensively.Ē