Sens have higher expectations

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:18 AM ET

VANCOUVER — It was back to work Saturday afternoon for the Senators.

After enjoying Friday off and holding their annual rookie dinner — with seven newcomers paying the bill — the Senators have a long road ahead if they want to stay in the playoff position they hold.

While the Senators are one of the NHL’s biggest surprises at the 20-game mark, they’re aware the challenge is only going to get tougher as they prepare to take on the Canucks Sunday at Rogers Arena.

“We had higher expectations for ourselves than other people had for us,” said centre Jason Spezza. “We’re being very short-sighted, very short-minded and everybody has bought in. That’s why we’ve had the results we’ve had.

“I don’t feel that we’re ever out of games, besides those two early (in the season). That’s what we’re trying to do, just hang around.

“We’re taking it one game at a time. I know it’s a cliche, but that’s how we have to approach it.”

Keeping goals short-term has been an idea coach Paul MacLean has been selling.

“We knew there were going to be some humps to get over, some bumps and bruises,” said goalie Craig Anderson. “To be able to throw some games together after going through some adversity has been a terrific builder for us.

“It’s just great for the young guys to get their feet wet in the first 20 games. It’s time for them to pitch in a little bit more and for everybody to give a little bit more because after the 20-game mark, teams know their systems and they’re playing pretty well. You’ve got to be there every night.”

The wake-up call for the Senators was back-to-back beatings at home to Colorado (7-1) and Philadelphia (7-2) in early October. After giving up what MacLean calls “two touchdowns” the players held a wake-up call meeting.

The message was: Start giving a better effort.

“Sometimes you need to be booted for a couple of games to kind of wake up a little bit,” said Anderson. “I remember a couple of years back in Colorado, we got beat pretty good on home ice by Vancouver, and we got booed off the ice.

“We’ve got great leaders in our room to boost morale when things aren’t going right. We’ve got a coach who has come in and simplified things to make guys feel more comfortable. There’s not a ‘Here we go again’ mentality when things don’t go right. He’s been great keeping things positive to keep our confidence up.”

THIS ’N’ THAT

D Chris Phillips, who left Thursday’s 5-2 victory over Edmonton with seven minutes left in the third, was back on the ice Saturday. He will suit up against the Canucks and MacLean doesn’t expect to make any lineup changes. D David Rundblad will be a scratch and Anderson will start in goal ... Asked why people hate the Canucks so much after Mark Recchi called them arrogant on Boston radio, captain Daniel Alfredsson said: “I don’t.” ... No timetable for D Matt Carkner. He continues to skate, but the Senators haven’t circled a date for his return from a knee injury.


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