Surging Senators feeling 'proud,' not the draft

Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson prepares to save a shot from Jesse Winchester during...

Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson prepares to save a shot from Jesse Winchester during practice at Scotiabank Place, March 26, 2011. (Errol McGihon/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:09 AM ET

The Senators have their faithful concerned.

As they embark on their second-last road trip of the season with games against Atlanta Sunday, Tampa Tuesday and Florida Thursday, the Senators have moved to within one point of the Panthers for 27th overall.

Since the fall to the basement got serious for the Senators with the housecleaning in February, the club has been selling the hope of a top draft pick, but this surge toward the finish line has fans torn.

Sure, they want to see the Senators win, but the higher they climb in the standings, the more it’s going to hurt their lottery chances of getting a shot at some of the top-end talent at the draft in June.

Given the way they’ve been playing, it’s fair to say the Senators have a good chance of coming home with 4-of-6 points on this trip, and closing in on the 26th-place Islanders.

That doesn’t seem to bother the players one bit.

“We’re just proud of the way we’re playing,” said winger Nick Foligno. “We’re happy with the product that we’re putting out on the ice.

“Every guy in here has stepped up to play a key role in that success. We’ve got Craig Anderson doing a great job, (Curtis) McElhinney has done a great job when he’s stepped up. Then, the guys who have been called up from Binghamton have been great.

“It creates a lot of excitement. We’re looking forward to next season and having a real good year. It’s real positives we’re taking out of this.”

The biggest difference in the resurgence has been Anderson. In 13 games he’s suited up for the Senators, he has allowed one goal or fewer in nine while compiling an 8-4 record.

“He’s playing with confidence and he’s playing big in the net,” said coach Cory Clouston. “He reads the play as well as any goaltender I’ve ever had.”

In the past 11 victories, the Senators have been huge defensively. They have two shutouts over that span, allowed one goal in eight and two goals in the other game.

“I know where the fans are coming from that would like to see us get a high pick, but as players we have to disregard all that and go out and play,” said Jason Spezza, who has been excellent with seven goals and 18 assists in 23 games since returning from a shoulder injury.

“We’re still fighting for our jobs and our own pride. Our job is, we get paid to win hockey games. Whether we’re in last place or not, we’ve unfortunately put ourselves in this position. For us, winning hockey games is most important.

“You can definitely see where the fans are coming, from but I don’t think they’re cheering against us. But they’ve been here, they’ve been great, they’re supporting us and I think they like the energy we’ve been bringing to the games.”

With only seven games left on the schedule, there aren’t many points left on the table, but they all count one way or another for the Senators.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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