OTTAWA - Paul MacLean wants to make sure the Senators’ ticket is punched before getting ready for the playoffs.
While it feels like the post-season with May-like temperatures, the Senators coach isn’t about to get ahead of himself and start preparing the players for the playoffs.
The Senators aren’t looking past closing out this three-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night at Scotiabank Place.
“It’s really early. We’ve got nine games to play,” said MacLean following a 46-minute high-tempo practice Monday. “We haven’t done anything.
“We still have to get to 82 games and we have to get the x (that signifies a playoff spot is clinched in the standings) whenever that is. That’s the only time that you know you have something accomplished. We’re still going day-by-day and still trying get a little bit better and build on the foundation we started.”
The Senators could finish anywhere from second to eighth in the East playoff picture. Not only are they chasing the No. 2-ranked Boston Bruins, the Devils are No. 6 and this game is a chance to close the gap.
“Every game we win, we have a chance to gain on somebody or put someone farther behind us, which is everybody’s goal,” said MacLean. “Every game is important because you have a chance to advance.”
The good news is the Senators should get their rink back against the Devils. The atmosphere at Friday’s game vs. the Habs and Saturday’s visit by the Leafs made it feel like Ottawa was playing a road game.
The group that does the in-house entertainment even had to turn up the music in the warmup to drown out the “Go Leafs Go” chants. Those kinds of actions won’t be necessary for the Devils.
“New Jersey doesn’t have a custom of bringing a lot of their fans,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson.
“Even though the crowds are biased, it’s a good atmosphere (playing Montreal and Toronto) and that’s what you want. Instead of just having 8,000 fans (just cheering for Ottawa), everybody prefers a full building and everything that comes with it. We look forward to trying to finish strong at home here.”
THE CROWDED CREASE
G Craig Anderson took part in all of practice Monday, but he’s not ready to play.
Recovering from a hand injury suffered last month in his kitchen, Anderson won’t return before Friday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre, but it should be noted he hasn’t got full use of the hand yet.
Anderson wasn’t handling the puck at all during the skate. He shared the net with Ben Bishop and Alex Auld. Bishop is scheduled to make his seventh straight start.
“We’re going to see how (Anderson) does,” said MacLean. “He’s getting better. He was on the ice for the full practice. It’s four weeks on Thursday which is a date the surgeon thought it was important to get (past).
“We’ll take it day-by-day and we’ll see how it goes. He’s making progress and I’m sure when he feels right, he’s going to knock on my door.”
Anderson hasn’t played since Feb. 22 against the Washington Capitals.
THIS ’N’ THAT
C Jason Spezza and D Matt Gilroy were both excused from practice. Spezza was attending the funeral as a pallbearer of former national ski team member Nic Zoricic in Toronto, while Gilroy was at the wake of a family member in Long Island. Both will be available to face the Devils. It will be Spezza’s 600th NHL game ... C Jesse Winchester skated Monda,y but he’s still not ready to play. He hasn’t fully recovered from his concussion and hasn’t had the baseline test that’s required to give him clearance to play. He said there isn’t any timetable. He hasn’t played since he was hit by Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad on Dec. 20 ... Alfredsson shaved his head because of the warm weather. “Too hot the other way,” said Alfredsson ... Prospect Matt Puempel, who has been given a clean bill of health after a concussion, left Peterborough Monday to join the Binghamton Senators for the rest of the season. The OHL’s Petes missed the playoffs.