Sens told to play with 'urgency'

Nick Foligno hopes to return to the lineup Tuesday night against the Leafs. (DARREN BROWN/Ottawa...

Nick Foligno hopes to return to the lineup Tuesday night against the Leafs. (DARREN BROWN/Ottawa Sun)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

For the Senators, the playoffs start Tuesday night.

At least that’s the way coach Cory Clouston is telling his players to look at the final 13 games of the season, starting with a clash against their former post-season foes, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Senators, who have lost five of their last six, were instructed before Monday’s practice to start playing with the same “urgency” they had in compiling a franchise-record 11-game winning streak in January and February.

The demand comes on the heels of an embarrassing 5-1 loss to Vancouver in which the Senators showed very little desire to compete.

“We were playing like we had something to lose,” said Clouston, whose team built up such a cushion during the streak it would now take a colossal collapse to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive spring.

“I don’t know if we’ve relaxed a little bit, but we’ve got to start treating these games like playoff games. That will get some urgency back in our game. No one’s panicking right now, we know we’re a good team. We’ve just got to get back to playing our game.

“There’s a big difference between some urgency and panic.”

Helping the cause is the expected return of Nick Foligno, who has been out since Jan. 30 with a broken leg. Foligno, who had a goal and five assists in the six games before he was hurt, skated on a line with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek at practice.

Clouston has done some more combination tinkering (Matt Cullen-Mike Fisher-Daniel Alfredsson, Ryan Shannon-Peter Regin-Alex Kovalev, Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Chris Neil) to inject life into a team that has scored only four goals in its last five losses.

Defenceman Chris Campoli could also return from an eight-game absence if his injured knee passes its test at the Tuesday morning skate.

The status of Mike Fisher, however, is unknown. He left practice 10 minutes early and when Clouston was asked about his second-line centre, he could provide no update.

Foligno, meanwhile, is looking to continue his solid season.

“I’m just looking to bring energy and play a solid, simple game, and kind of just pick up where I left off,” said Foligno, who has eight goals, 15 assists and a team-leading plus-13 in 48 games this season. “Just a matter of helping this team win. I just want to win going forward, and hopefully have a great playoff.”

With another four-game road trip on the horizon, the Senators are still trying to get some consistency from a power play that before this season was pretty decent. It went 0-for-7 vs. Calgary and Vancouver last week, and now ranks 27th.

“We’re not used to struggling on the power play, so you want to get back to the basics,” said Jason Spezza. “Look around the league, there’s been some real good teams with great power plays in the past that have struggled this year, too. The game is just trending towards point shots and tips, and maybe zinging the puck around the outside.

“The pretty plays aren’t working right now.”

Saying the Senators must get off to a better start, Daniel Alfredsson admitted the team’s chemistry is “a little bit off.”

“We’ve just got to stay with it,” said Alfredsson. “If you look throughout the season, a lot of teams go through streaks, ups and downs. It’s so competitive and if you do well, you expect to win every game. If you don’t, (it’s) ‘what’s going on, what’s wrong?’ You’ve got to stay positive. We know we can keep the game a little bit simpler.”


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