Senators vs. Oilers: The toilet bowl

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:16 AM ET

EDMONTON - CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada is supposed to be the celebration of a game that a country calls its own, but the kickoff to this year’s showcase is not exactly a source of pride.

Nor should there be much reason to jump up and cheer for whoever wins.

The Senators and Oilers are the NHL’s two worst teams. All to be determined is in which order they fall.

An Ottawa loss would not only be No. 12 in a row, but if it comes in regulation time would pull the Oilers even with the Senators at 42 points each.

Technically, the Senators would be 30th, as Edmonton would have a game in hand.

The Battle For the Basement begins at 2 p.m. — if you have absolutely nothing better to do with your afternoon.

“Nobody wants to be in last place,” said Senators centre Chris Kelly. “Everyone in that room wants to do better and compete. Everybody wants to win. It is our main goal.”

Adding to this compelling story is a potential goaltending matchup for the ages. Brian Elliott, who has lost a franchise-record 13 games in a row, is slated to start for the Senators. If the Oilers turn to Nikolai Khabibulin, he’ll also bring with him a personal, 13-game losing streak.

What are the odds?

The Senators spent a good part of practice and video session Friday reviewing their defensive zone coverage, which has been atrocious of late.

“It’s just about a better commitment to be harder on the puck, to be harder to play against, taking more time and space away,” said coach Cory Clouston. “Defending as a group. We don’t have one or two shutdown D-men. Don’t have (Anton) Volchenkov any more to pair with (Chris) Phillips. We have to work more as a unit. We have to come back together and lock down. We’ve got to give our goalie better support.”

Clouston’s pre-game message to the troops will be to “play hard.”

“Don’t play to wait and see what’s going to happen,” he will tell them. “Go out there and be proactive. Dictate the pace.”

And try to salvage something from an Oh-For-road trip in an Oh-For-month in a 1-for-2011.

“We just need to get back to playing hockey like when we were kids,” said Kelly. “Going to those minor hockey tournaments, all you wanted to do was win. You just wanted to win and maybe get a trophy. We need to get back to that. Come to the rink, prepare the right way, play the right way, go out there to win.”

Or take over the lead in the race for the first overall pick in the 2011 draft.

“Obviously, you don’t want to be at the bottom of the league,” said centre Jason Spezza. “We never expected to be in this position, and we don’t plan on staying here.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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