Cup run message received

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:51 PM ET

The Senators had a front-row seat last year as the Anaheim Ducks celebrated a Stanley Cup victory.

It was not the party Ottawa players wanted to attend.

The Senators have had 10 long months to think about what happened in their disastrous 4-1 loss to the Ducks in the final series last June, and as the playoffs get under way the team says it learned from the experience.

The Senators shed plenty of demons by getting to the final a year ago, but the way they were manhandled by the rugged Ducks once they got there sent a clear message.

EXPERIENCE

"The one thing you can learn from the experience is not to take anything for granted," said Senators winger Chris Neil. "If you have a good team, you don't want to let things slip away. We got a good group of guys in here and going that distance last year will help us come together at the right time.

"When you come back from losing in the Stanley Cup finals, it doesn't sit well. That's part of our success at the start of the year. We didn't want to come back and have a lousy start," he said.

"Now that we're going into the playoffs, you want to get back to playing well at the right time of year. You want to get back and be the one that is celebrating, not them."

The Senators have changed a lot since last year's final. Goaltender Ray Emery lost the No. 1 job to Martin Gerber. The club dealt Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves to Carolina for Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman.

And while John Paddock started the season behind the bench, he was sent packing Feb. 25.

Coach and GM Bryan Murray is trying to instill a commitment to defensive hockey again, but mostly he's asking his players to follow the same script they used with success last year.

"We know what a grind four rounds can be," said winger Dany Heatley. "Each series was a tough series last year and took a lot out of us. We just have to know the battle level when we get to the finals.

"We know what it (is) like and what to expect. It's going to take a lot to get there again," he said.

The Senators have to be prepared for a long, physical playoff run.

"We know how hard it is to win games and how you have to maintain focus through every playoff round," said Jason Spezza. "You can't really waiver. When we had teams down, we kept them down. You can't let teams back into (a) series because momentum is big.

'TOUGH TO LOSE'

"We learned in the final that we have to be ready for a different game plan," he said. "I don't think we changed our game as well as we could have in the final. That was tough to lose once we got that far."

Murray said struggling down the stretch drive this season may have helped his players learn a valuable lesson.

"There's a real determination on this team. A lot of people have written a lot of things that they don't like," said Murray.

"We know we have our work cut out for us, but I would expect we'll step to the plate and do a good job."


Videos

Photos