Sens fans will protest ... someday

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

Any night now, expect someone, a pair of people or a group of folks in the Scotia-blank Place crowd to express their feelings of disgust in an appropriate, time-honoured manner.

It’s actually shocking that no fans have started wearing papers bags over their heads already.

Make that none we’ve noticed.

When was the last time the Senators faithful was put through something like this? Not since the 1995-96 season (8-25-5-3) has their team finished below .500 in its friendliest confines.

They can’t be that bad again this season, but on this snowy and slippery Tuesday in January 2011 (nice night ... if you’re a Duck), the Senators threatened to become the first NHL team to lose for the 14th time in regulation on home ice.

Instead, they delayed the inevitable (until Friday vs. the Habs, perhaps?) with a 2-1 shootout loss to Anaheim.

That the Senators have a miserable 9-13-3 record on Palladium Dr. is ugly enough — their play in their own barn has become especially embarrassing of late. They have now lost five straight at Scotia-blank Place, where they have been victors just three times (and extended three others past regulation) in 15 outings since Nov. 24.

That’s nine of a possible 30 points, for those not bothering to do the math. Note that this morning, they are 12 points out of the playoff picture.

Had they grabbed even a very modest 15 of those 30 points, they’d be just six back, and very much in the thick of the battle for eighth place.

Mike Fisher said hours before the loss to the Ducks that his team seems to play more relaxed with less pressure as the visitors. They appeared as much later that day, firing 40 shots at Jonas Hiller through 65 minutes.

Fisher, who had the team’s only goal and hit the post in a shootout attempt, was asked if it’s tough being a Senator in Ottawa these days, if he and his teammates are ridiculed by the citizens of this city when they are on the streets doing their own, non-hockey thing.

“I try not to get out,” he said with a shrug and smile. “I’m a hermit these days. Everything comes right to my door.”

Turning serious, he said that people in Ottawa are, “for the most part” pretty good. “They understand it’s not for lack of trying,” he said. “It’s just, we’re not coming together. I think people understand. We’re regular people too, and we’re trying the best we can.”

It’s just been nowhere close to being good enough.

STARTS AND STOPS

Once again, a highlight of the night for the Senators was brought to you courtesy of Matt “Big Country” Carkner. The NHL’s reigning heavy-weight champ took down another giant (his fourth top contender in a row) when he plowed George Parros to the ice with an over-hand right that ended their first-period scrap. Parros, who leads the league with 18 scraps, landed only a couple of body shots on Carkner. Before his bout-deciding punch, the Senators defenceman scored with a couple of other shots to the big man’s noggin ... Call-up Bobby Butler had a couple of good chances, including a first-period breakaway that saw him shoot the puck right into goalie Hiller’s glove ... It’s only been 3½ years since the Senators and Ducks squared off for the Stanley Cup. “That was a lifetime ago, it seems,” Chris Kelly pondered before the game. Asked about his favourite memory from the best-of-seven series the Senators lost in five games, Kelly didn’t hesitate. “Getting a police escort to the rink in Anaheim,” he said.

Thing I think I think

Surely, Zack Smith is here to stay now. The rugged winger has had eight call ups (give or take a couple) from Binghamton since turning pro, but even though he’s on a two-way contract, it’s hard to imagine the Senators sending him back to the AHL again. “Obviously, that’s my goal. Right now, I feel I’m contributing enough to stay here, but obviously it depends on guys coming back from injuries and stuff,” Smith said before facing the Ducks. “You’ve got to hope for the best and play your hardest. It’s in the back, back, back of your head, so you’ve got to be ready to get sent down. You don’t think about it, but there’s a possibility.” Smith’s favourite part of the Bingo-Ottawa drive? “I stop and get a slice of pizza halfway through,” he said. “Gas station pizza. It’s a quick trip.” ... Ducks D Andy “Mount” Sutton did not lay out any of his ex-teammates, but he did get a piece of Ryan Shannon in the third ... The much-maligned Brian Elliott made a big stop off a third-period breakaway by Matt Beleskey. He even managed to get in the way of the attempt off the rebound ... Best Senators chances to break the tie late in the third were shots by the previously maligned Chris Campoli ... Counting shots on goal (40), missed shots (17) and shots they had blocked (24), the Senators sent 81 pucks at the Anaheim goal — and scored once. That’s not counting their 0-3 in the shootout.

It’s a family affair

Senators winger Nick Foligno was pumped about playing an Anaheim team that has his dad Mike as an assistant coach. “We’ve had our bickering back and forth. It’s been a lot of fun,” Nick said after the morning skate. “He’s just excited to be here, obviously, and kind of have a front-row seat to me playing. It’ll be a unique experience for both of us.” Among those in the crowd were Foligno’s brother, Sabres prospect Marcus, as well his grandmother, who was wearing a No. 71 Senators jersey. “I told them if they’re coming into this barn they better be pulling for Ottawa,” said Nick.

C’est what?

“It feels a lot shorter coming up than going back.”

— Goalie Mike Brodeur, on the drive from Binghamton to Ottawa and back that he’s made at least a half-dozen times over the past two seasons.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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