Sens need to show best

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:27 PM ET

Daniel Alfredsson doesn't need anybody pointing out he has but one goal in these playoffs, an empty netter at that.

The Senators captain is more than willing to point it out himself.

He was asked a question about the performance of goaltender Ray Emery after the Senators' win in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal with the Buffalo Sabres, something along the lines of whether Emery has received enough credit.

"He's been solid," said Alfredsson. "Our reason for losing, especially Game 2 and 3, was I'm not scoring. I'm not making the most of my opportunities. When you get chances, you have to put them in."

Alfredsson did have an assist on Wade Redden's winner Thursday night, but if the Senators are going to prolong the series tonight, the task would be easier with Alfredsson and Dany Heatley and Martin Havlat finding the back of the net.

Without their big guns firing, the margin for error for the Senators remains razor thin.

So, while those guys look for their scoring touch, if the Senators are going to stay alive they will have to keep improving in a couple of other areas: Preventing the odd-man rushes which killed them in the first three games and dictating where on the ice the game is to be played.

They were much better in both in Game 4.

They will have to be even better in Game 5 tonight.

"We're making sure we're smarter and have the third man high, not giving up odd-man rushes because that's how (the Sabres) capitalize. They haven't got any cycling goals or anything like that," said Senators forward Mike Fisher, who was a force on the forecheck Thursday night.

"We just want to get back to the way that was successful all year. Some of the little things. I thought we had a better all-round team game. We were supporting each other better. That's what it's all about come playoffs, it's believing in each other, supporting each other, doing it as a unit. Once we do that, we're a hard team to beat. It's not like we haven't been working, we just haven't been working together."

You need that kind of team concept to get the forecheck going. If one guy is going to chip it by, another has to be ready to pursue it.

BETTER STRATEGY

The Senators will be looking to chip the puck by the Sabres defence and create some races, something they didn't do much in the first three games, but did more often in Game 4.When they are doing that, it means the Sabres aren't doing it to them.

Senators coach Bryan Murray also made a key strategic decision in Game 4. He redistributed his ice time, leaning heavily on two lines and his Big Three on the blue line. He cut back the ice time for Heatley, Jason Spezza and Patrick Eaves, who were on the ice for the Sabres' only goal late in the second period.

Spezza had only 14 shifts in the game (playing time of 11 minutes and 35 seconds), same as Eaves. Only Christoph Schubert and Chris Neil had fewer (13 apiece).

Alfredsson led the forwards with 20:43, while Zdeno Chara led the blue line with 30:50, followed by Redden at 25:18 and Chris Phillips with 23:32. There was a significant drop to Andrej Meszaros (15:31), Anton Volchenkov (12:22) and Brian Pothier (10:31).

In the cases of Meszaros and Volchenkov, it seemed like less was more. They both had better efforts in Game 4 than they did in the first three games.

With a win tonight, the Senators can completely alter the momentum of the series. One win in game 4 -- a tight one at that -- might be just a blip. But two, forcing the teams back to Buffalo for a Game 6 Monday night ...

"The pressure is on them. They were up 3-0. They're supposed to win this series," said Alfredsson "We'll do everything we can not to allow them to do that."

"We're approaching it one minute at a time," said Fisher. "We can't look at the total series."

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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