COLUMBUS — On New Year’s Eve, the Senators want their glass half full.
When they play the Blue Jackets here Friday, it will be their 80th game of 2010. A win would be their 40th of the calender year, which means they’ve been as good as they’ve been bad.
From their first game of last January to the end of the season, they were 23-16-2. So far, in the 2010-11 season, they’re 16-18-4. As the last category being shootout or overtime defeats, their simple won-loss record is 39-40.
Asked to sum up his team’s play the past 12 months, coach Cory Clouston didn’t hesitate.
“Inconsistent,” he said.
Clouston cited knee injuries to Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek, as well as the suicide of assistant coach Luke Richardson’s 14-year-old Deron, as setbacks the Senators struggled to overcome.
“We’ve gone through a lot of adversity,” he said. “We’ve had some guys coming off major surgeries ... I guess in one sense we were fortunate they were able to come back, unfortunate that they’ve had some setbacks throughout the first 30-plus games.
“A lot of adversity losing a member of our family, from our coaching staff. That set us back, we felt, probably three or four games. It was a real tough time we had to battle through, and right now that’s kind of a glaring three games on our record right now. All three of those games were losses, we didn’t play well, it took us a little while to get ourselves back going.
“At times we’ve played very well,” he added, referring to the big picture, “and at times we haven’t.”
Clouston’s wish for 2011? Consistency, of course.
“Right from our goaltenders on out,” he said. “A healthier lineup where we can get some momentum, get some flow, and string some wins together.”
Winger Nick Foligno said he and his teammates are anxious to put up a new calendar.
“It’s something obviously we’re looking forward to — a new year and a fresh start,” said Foligno. “I think guys are excited about this opportunity coming up in Columbus (and) we know 2011 is going to be a good year for us. We’ve just got to continue to have confidence, play well, and I think everyone is going to find their stride.”
While many wrote off the Senators’ chances when Jason Spezza suffered a shoulder injury that is threatening to keep him out for six weeks, Foligno says there are no doubts inside the walls of their inner sanctum.
That’s all fine and good, but some of them have to start scoring. Only three teams have fewer goals than Ottawa.
“We’re not panicking at all in this room,” said Foligno. “We know that we have a good team. We’ve just got to be more consistent. I think that’s something we’ve been trying to find all year along, consistency. From a personal standpoint and from a team standpoint. If guys can find that in their independent games, as a team we’re going to do well. consistently, and we’re going to see ourselves winning a lot more games.
The immediate goal is to beat the Blue Jackets, then focus on the Leafs at Scotabank Place Saturday. Two victories would give the Senators a .500 record on the season, heading into a six-day break before they visit the defending champs in Chicago Jan. 7.
“We’re looking for that,” said Foligno. “We want to have a good feeling going into that break. Have some things we need to work on, but also know that we have some good games in the past. We know (Wednesday) night wasn’t our best performance, but we have an opportunity against Columbus to right the wrong. We need to go in there and play a real solid road game.
“I think, to a man, we believe in ourselves.
“Jason is a big part of our team, but we still have the guys in here that can win hockey games,” Foligno added. “We all have to step up, myself included. We all need to play better. I think if we do that, we’re going to see ourselves win lots of games.”