Senators seeking more respect

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:09 PM ET

Sergei Gonchar hasn’t been around for long, but he’s seen enough of the Senators to notice this a good team.

The Senators, who The Hockey News picks to finish 10th in the East, will open the season Friday vs. the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place.

“People don’t give (the Senators) enough credit. They’re a lot better than people think,” said Gonchar, who was signed on July 1 as an unrestricted free agent. “They have a lot of skill here and a lot of talent. In previous years, maybe they didn’t use it as much and people didn’t recognize it.

“But when we’re on the same page and doing this as a team, this club has the potential to surprise a lot of people ... guys want to prove to everyone that they’re a good team.”

Eliminated from Round 1 of the playoffs last spring by Gonchar’s Pittsburgh Penguins, the Senators didn’t undergo a major overhaul. There are only two new faces: Gonchar and young centre Zack Smith.

Training camp was relatively quiet with the exception of all the questions about goalies Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott. Coach Cory Clouston said this group reported in mid-September ready to work, looking to build on last season’s playoff appearance.

“There was a little bit of unfinished business,” said Clouston. “But it was definitely something to build on. That has created some motivation and optimism for this season as well.”

“Yeah, maybe we haven’t gotten the respect from people who have picked us to miss the playoffs,” said defenceman Chris Campoli. “Last year, we were picked to miss the playoffs. The criticism is there, but you can’t really pay attention to it. We’re confident in the guys that we have in the room. I think we know what we’re capable of. Credit or no credit, we have to go out and prove we’re a good (team).”

The goal is simple: Get back to the playoffs, then take it a step or two further. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson likes what he’s seen and hopes the team gets the season started with a bang.

“We have a good mix of everything,” said Alfredsson. “It’s just a matter of going out and putting everything together and, hopefully, we can do that early on.

“It would be really nice to get off to a good start. We can take a little bit of pressure off ourselves and we’re pretty healthy and ready to go.”

Asked if the window of opportunity is short for the Senators, the 37-year-old Alfredsson fired back: “In my 14 years here, I think I’ve been asked that question 10 times. I feel more than ever that if you get into the playoffs, there’s no saying that you don’t have a chance. Just get in and you can cause a lot of damage.”


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