|Coach Paul MacLean has a laugh at practice Friday. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)
NEW YORK — The Senators found themselves — as unlikely as it might seem — in a playoff spot on Friday.
The Senators, riding a four-game winning streak, can move above .500 for the first time this season with a victory over the Rangers Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
But with a long road ahead and two more games before completing the first month of the schedule, the Senators are trying to keep their feet planted on the ground and aren’t going to get carried away with post-season talk.
“From Day 1 that’s what we’ve aimed for,” centre Jason Spezza said before the Senators’ flight here Friday. “We’re playing the games, we want to win them. We feel like if we can just bring a good, solid effort, we can compete with anyone and we’ll see where the results get us.
“We’re not looking that far ahead. I think what we’re trying to do is be really short-sighted. Even in games, (coach) Paul (Maclean) has talked about getting to timeouts, getting a lead to the first timeout, playing well to the next timeout. It’s worked for us. I don’t think we’ll change that approach.
“We’ve had success being short-sighted and just worrying about six-minute blocks. We can’t really worry about trying to make the playoffs.”
The Senators have plenty of confidence after a dramatic, last-second 4-3 victory over the Panthers on Thursday at home.
The Senators gave up 30 goals in their first six games and have only allowed nine during their four-game winning streak.
That’s a pretty big turnaround.
“It’s just a matter of doing the right things on the ice and giving ourselves a chance,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson, one of Ottawa’s best players this season. “We know we’ve got be to prepared every game.
“I think we’ve done a really good job, especially at home, keeping things simple. When you’re going on the road, that’s even more important.”
Last-minute victories over the Panthers Thursday and last Saturday against Columbus are pretty rare in the NHL. According to Elias Sports, the Senators became only the fourth team in the last 15 years to turn a last-minute deficit into a regulation win. Trailing 3-2 against the Jackets, Spezza tied it at 19:24 and then Michalek Michalek had the winner at 19:55. Then, Thursday it was Foligno’s winner with 2.5 seconds left that gave the club the victory. That was the second time in six days the Senators have scored the winner with 10 seconds left in the game. That had only happened once in team history when Alfredsson accomplished the feat on March 14, 2006 vs. the Lightning. Only two teams secured victories in that fashion all of last season.
AROUND THE BOARDS
MacLean said he won’t be making any changes. “Don’t change a winning lineup,” said MacLean, while knocking on his head with his fist. That means RW Bobby Butler will be a healthy scratch for the second straight game. He is ready to return from a groin injury, but is going to have to wait until the circumstances change ... G Craig Anderson will make the start against the Rangers. He could play against the Leafs on Sunday, as well, but MacLean isn’t willing to look that far head. “We’re going to take this one game at a time,” said MacLean ... Foligno, who scored his second goal of the season on Thursday, said he hopes to keep contributing. “To have the confidence of the coach to be out there is nice,” said Foligno.