OTTAWA - It should come as a surprise to learn that Milan Michalek has scored just once at Scotiabank Place since his birthday on Dec. 7 — and in the grand scheme of things, it counted for zero.
The goal came during last Sunday’s all-star game and was set up on a pretty platter by the Islanders’ John Tavares, whose team will provide the opposition Friday as the Senators desperately attempt to end their losing streak at four.
Michalek, Ottawa’s top sniper with 23, is currently trying to find his way out of an eight-game slump that dates back to Jan. 12, when he had the second goal in a 3-0 win over the Rangers in New York. He’d likely have better luck if the team was still on the road, where Michalek has lit the lamp 16 times.
Only Phoenix winger Radim Vrbata has scored more often as a visitor, and he has 17.
“I think about it a lot,” Michalek admitted to the Sun after Thursday’s practice when asked about his dry spell. “The season is long, there’s always ups and downs. Sometimes you’re low. But I’m trying to stay positive. I think it’s going to turn around soon. I have to work hard and hopefully it’s going to come back soon.”
In misery, Michalek has company. His name is Jason Spezza. The Senators’ points leader with 50, Spezza hasn’t had a goal or an assist during the team’s losing streak. In fact, the first line has scored just once in the four games.
In an attempt to find a cure for what ails, coach Paul MacLean switched left winger Colin Greening with third-liner Erik Condra at practice this week.
At least Spezza and Michalek — who were both minus-5 on all-star Sunday — have only been minus-2 during the slump.
“Our whole line, the last four games we haven’t produced offensively and we’ve lost,” said Spezza. “So it’s no coincidence. We have to be good as a line offensively, too.”
Michalek says the chances have been there, but figures he and his linemates have to start going to the net more. He also concedes that he’s feeling the pressure during what has become his longest drought of the season.
“I want to contribute every night,” said Michalek. “If I score it’s nice. If I score one, I think the confidence is going to come back and it’s going to go good. It doesn’t matter, get some ugly goal. And hopefully from there it’s going to go good.
“I’ve always been streaky. I don’t know why that is. I’m always doing the same things, working hard and everything. But sometimes it just doesn’t go in. Sometimes you get so lucky, and it gets in. The season is long. I’m sure it’s going to come around soon.”
The Senators need soon to be now. The last thing they want is to go into Saturday’s game at Scotiabank Place vs. the Leafs on a five-game slide.
Currently clinging on to sixth place, they were just four points up on the ninth-place Capitals heading into play Thursday. The Senators are currently just two points up on the Leafs, who have two games in hand.
“Every point is crucial right now,” said Ottawa’s Zenon Konopka, whose team will be kicking off a five-game homestand when it takes to the ice against the Islanders. “But we feel like we’ve played pretty well the last two games. We feel if we stay the course, we’ll be fine. We haven’t played a lot of home games. We’re excited to get back home in front of our fans, and kind of make a run here in February.”