Sens keep healthy outlook

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

ATLANTA — As magically as it worked the last time they were this low, the Senators resisted any temptation to detour through Central Park for a get-away-from-it-all day on their way to Georgia on Wednesday afternoon.

“But there must be some neighbourhoods in Atlanta that we can walk through,” GM Bryan Murray said in jest.

Without getting hurt, that is.

The Senators are in pretty good shape that way. Coach Cory Clouston is hopeful for the return of Mike Fisher and Filip Kuba from their upper and lower-body issues for Thursday’s game against the Thrashers. That would mark just the second time this season he’s had an injury-free roster to choose from.

The other was for a 4-3 win in Florida Oct. 28.

If that sounds like grasping for a positive, well, maybe the mood emitting from the sagging Senators at Wednesday’s practice is responsible.

Losers six times in seven games since the break, the players and management were “up-tempo” and “positive” before departing on a three-game trip that includes stops in Dallas and Montreal.

Interesting, in that their last visit to Atlanta represented rock-bottom of the season — a 6-1 loss that was Ottawa’s fifth in a row. Sobered by the reality of getting crushed by the Thrashers, the Senators went on to win 11 straight.

“We went through this earlier this year and we obviously became a better team from it,” said Clouston. “That’s what our whole goal is now. It’s forcing us to go through our whole game with a fine-tooth comb, and analyze things maybe a little more than we normally would have. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

The Senators’ big problem is still putting the puck in the net. Aside from their lone post-break victory, they have just five goals in six games.

That huge pile of sawdust outside the dressing room is from players gripping their sticks so tight.

“We’re just playing with no confidence,” said Murray. “We were a very confident group. Everything we did was right. Now we’ve lost a couple of games, and kind of lost our focus a little bit, and watching the game (Tuesday) night, it looks like we had no confidence in doing normal things.

“You’ve got to work hard, but pucks aren’t going in because we’re not playing with that attitude (of) just go play.”

Murray said he’s concerned, just as he is every time his team loses. But he’s also certain the woes won’t last.

“We’ll get back and play (well) again, there’s no question, but we have to get our best players to play to their ability a lot more,” he said. “Things will be fine, but we’ve got to find it on this road trip.”

Unless they go on a tear, the Senators are destined to start the playoffs on the road. If the season ended before Wednesday’s games, they’d be going to New Jersey. Dropping one spot would mean opening against Buffalo. Another spot and they’d face the defending champion Penguins. One more and they’d face the NHL-leading Capitals.

As they embark on a roadie against three teams coming off victories, the Senators are only five points up on the Bruins, who are currently eighth.

“We can all read the standings,” Clouston said when asked if his team fully realizes the situation.

“We’re still in good shape,” maintained Daniel Alfredsson, who has six assists in the last seven games and was Ottawa’s hardest-working player in the loss to the Leafs. “But if you want to go to the playoffs, and go far in the playoffs, you need to go on a roll before.

“I’m fairly confident that we’re going to break out of this. The reason I’m saying that is, obviously the guys in this room, but also the fundamentals that we do have. We’ve shown signs where during games we’ve played really well.”

Added Fisher: “We’d rather be playing great right now but we’ve got 12 games left and we’re a great team. We’re happy with what we have here. We’re on a little slide, but we’re going to turn it around. We’re going to go into the playoffs on a high.”


Videos

Photos