SHORT HILLS, N.J. — There aren’t many Senators used to playing out the string.
But that’s where they find themselves.
As they embark a four-game, six-day road trip, the Senators can only hope to play their way out of last place. There won’t be any heroic run to the playoffs.
“This is definitely somewhere we don’t want to be,” said defenceman Chris Phillips, who has missed the post-season only once in his 14-year career.
“We’re not going to be able to make a push for the playoffs. It’s just about finishing strong, not worrying about results, just going out and playing them hard.
“It’s definitely an area that we’ve talked about the most. That’s trying to outwork other teams and, from there, let the results fall where they may.”
The Senators have undergone a lot of change in the past two months. Not very often can a trip at the end of the season be used for bonding, but this might be a good chance to promote togetherness.
While they held a team dinner last month in Chicago, the Senators could hold a rookie get-together on this trip with the likes of newcomers Bobby Butler, Colin Greening and Erik Condra among the candidates to pick up cheques.
“We have so many new guys, so many young guys, it is good to get on the road,” said coach Cory Clouston. “These guys have played together down in Binghamton and they’ve been up and down.
“So, there is some consistency there. (Being on the road) isn’t going to hurt us.”
Teams in the Senators’ situation grasp for motivation to keep playing hard. While some are playing for jobs next season, many veterans have guaranteed contracts.
Nobody is going to steal centre Jason Spezza’s job. Winger Chris Neil isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The veterans are saying and doing the right things with only 17 games left on the schedule.
“We’re just trying to win every night. We’re not looking at the standings,” said Spezza. “We’ve put ourselves in a tough position. (The standings) are something more for (the media) to follow.
This hasn’t been easy.
“It’s different attitude and a different mindset,” added Spezza. “There’s no good looking at the standings. We’re just trying to stay positive and become a better group.
“There’s a lot of young guys here learning and I think us older guys are learning as well. We have to dig deep, be good examples and play well. If we can win some games with the guys we have now, it will give guys confidence going into next year.”