Two days after Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean said he wasn't happy with the effort in a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames, his players paid the price.
The Senators spent more than 80 minutes Friday at an intense practice in Calgary that included special-teams work, breakouts and one battle drill that led to a fight between defenseman Jared Cowen and forward Chris Neil. The Ottawa Citizen reported they dropped the gloves and got in a few punches before teammates broke it up.
"We need more of it, preferably when the games are on, but we need more, I don't know, just be harder," MacLean told the Senators website afterward. "That's playing harder. If you're playing harder in practice that stuff is going to practice. Boys are going to be boys, men are going to be men, and we need more of it."
The Senators are 1-2-0 on a four-game road trip that ends with a game against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon. They'll enter 12th in the Eastern Conference and in danger of missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"If there's a button there, we better hit it," MacLean said. "We have to continue to work at finding our best team and finding our best game. Consistently we haven't found that to this point this year, but that doesn't mean we can't. Right now we need to."
The Senators will start Craig Anderson in goal against the Jets. Forward Clarke MacArthur, who sustained a hand injury in the loss to the Flames, will be replaced by Matt Kassian. Cowen, a healthy scratch for the past three games, will replace Patrick Wiercioch.
"All I know is we have 19 more games to play and we've got to keep working at it," MacLean said. "We can't just let it slide, we have to continue to work at it. This isn't just a one year-type of thing we're in, this is a process of becoming an elite team, and you face adversity in a lot of different ways. Last year it was injuries, this year is it indifferent play? Inconsistency?
"We've used lots of different words, but it's basically we don't play hard enough. Are we too skilled and not hard enough? Those are things we discuss every day. We just need to make sure we push the fact that we want to be a work ethic-based team and not just a skill-based team."