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Northeast: Streaking Senators moving forward

by James Murphy
The Ottawa Senators will try to stretch their franchise-record winning streak to 10 games Wednesday when they take on the Northeast Division-leading Buffalo Sabres. But as coach Cory Clouston pointed out Tuesday, there's always room for improvement even when everything seems to be going right.
"There's no such thing as a perfect game or perfect team," Clouston told the Ottawa Sun. "There are always areas to improve on. We're playing well (but) you can't get complacent. You can either move forward or backward. We want to continue to move forward. To just say one or two areas, it doesn't work that way. There are a lot of areas where we've got to get better."
Jason Spezza also has a streak of his own going as he has scored a goal in seven straight games; he can break former teammate Dany Heatley's club record with a goal against the Sabres on Wednesday. Spezza, though, ruled out superstition as the secret to his success.
"I like changing my underwear," Spezza told the Sun. "I'm not worried about wearing the same clothes or whatnot."
Big start for new Leafs -- The Maple Leafs made a huge splash in the trade market Sunday, and while the moves were made to change the foundation of the team and help in the future, new acquisitions Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Dion Phaneuf and Fredrik Sjostrom had immediate impacts in a 3-0 win against the Devils on Tuesday. Phaneuf got into a fight with Devils defenseman Colin White 6:51 into the game, Giguere had a 30-save shutout and Sjostrom had an assist on Nikolai Kulemin's first-period goal.
While all three contributed on the score sheet, it was the new life and energy they brought to the dressing room and on the ice that stood out to their new teammates.
"I felt the extra energy," said Francois Beauchemin, who was paired with Phaneuf on defense. "And there is no statistic to measure that. There was a lot of life for us tonight."
Phaneuf was excited to be a Leaf and fed off the atmosphere he and his teammates generated.
"It was a great honor to put this jersey on tonight and be a part of this organization," he said. "The fans were unbelievable, too. It was a very special game in my career."
There was some bad news for the Leafs earlier in the day, as it appears defenseman Mike Komisarek's season could be in serious jeopardy. Komisarek, who has been out with an upper-body injury since Jan. 2, is scheduled to meet with doctors Wednesday to make a decision -- and he acknowledged that decision could mean his season is over.
"I think there's a possibility that's definitely there," he told the Globe And Mail. "If there wasn't, I'd definitely be back. But it's definitely a possibility."
Bruins in freefall -- This has been a trying season for the Bruins, to say the least. Boston is winless in eight straight (0-6-2), falling Tuesday to the Capitals, who are streaking in the opposite direction, winners of 11 straight.

"Tonight I really thought we deserved the win," said Boston coach Claude Julien, whose team outshot Washington 42-26 and carried the play for most of the first two periods. "If we had scored some goals, it could have been, in my mind, 4-1 for us after two periods. We came out of that period tied, and the minute we made a mistake, it was in our net.

"Those are things right now you get frustrated at. We hit two or three posts. We missed some really quality chances. We've hit some hot goaltending as of late, but we've got to keep plugging away."

The Bruins are 0-6-1 at home since their last win in Boston, 2-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Their last win at TD Garden was a 4-0 victory against Atlanta on Dec. 30. The home losing streak is their longest since 1924-25.

Julien said he's not sure whether to push his players more or ease up a bit.

"That's what we're thinking about now -- do we push them harder or ease up to reduce the tension," he said. "I wish I had the answer now. It's something we really have to look into."

One good sign lately is the Bruins finally are getting healthy. Marc Savard returned last Friday and had an assist in each of his first two games back, and Marco Sturm returned from a leg injury and scored his team-leading 16th goal in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings on Saturday. But Monday, the Bruins got the bad news that rugged defenseman Mark Stuart was headed for another extended time on injured reserve after having surgery to repair a broken finger suffered in the loss to the Kings.
"Yeah, it's frustrating, and at the same time I thought the last few games (Stuart) was playing some of his best hockey," Julien said. "We liked his game. Unfortunately, you lose him for three to four weeks, and this is the second major injury for a guy who's been as reliable as you'd find as far as health issues are concerned -- until this year."
Stuart is out until at least after the Olympics. Meanwhile, fellow defenseman Andrew Ference is battling back from a groin injury and has been skating with his team in practice lately. He is expected to be out until after the Olympics, as well.
GM Peter Chiarelli admitted Monday that he's working to make a trade that could help his struggling club, but that the trade market is tough even after division rival Toronto pulled off two major deals over the weekend.
"It may prompt GM's to try even harder, but we already are," said Chiarelli.
Myers excels for Sabres -- Defenseman Tyler Myers continued to make a case for the Calder Trophy being named NHL Rookie Of The Month for January; he had 4 goals and 10 points in 14 games. Myers led all rookies in ice time as well, averaging 24:42 per game. Heading into action Wednesday, Myers led all rookies with 24 assists and was tied for third in points with 31.
"Obviously, it's exciting," Myers told the Buffalo News. "It's always nice to get recognized for your play. I'm just trying to take it game by game here, and luckily I put together a good month in January."
Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta, who recently came back from a concussion, will miss more time with a bruised foot. Coach Lindy Ruff wouldn't put a timetable on how long Kaleta will be out, but he did acknowledge he needed time to heal.
"It looks like he's going to miss some time," Ruff said. "Nothing showed up on X-rays, but he's going to have a tough time walking on it, so he's going to miss some time."
Tough loss for Habs -- Already struggling to score even-strength goals, the Canadiens lost their leading goal scorer, Michael Cammalleri, to a knee injury. Fortunately, Cammalleri (26 goals, 48 points) won't need surgery, but he will be out six weeks.
"It's good news for sure to know that (Cammalleri) will be back for the stretch drive. That's encouraging," coach Jacques Martin said of the player that has become a key cog in the offense, scoring 22 even-strength goals and 4 on the power play.
But Martin also is happy he'll have Cammalleri back for the leadership he provides as well, and believes Cammalleri still can be there for his team while recovering.
"What's important is for him to do his rehabilitation, keep his focus, keep upbeat and help the team when he's around," Martin said.
Cammalleri also is excited he will be back playing at some point this season and is not going to dwell on this setback.
"It's just a part of my job, I'm supposed to help my team," he said "If we win a Stanley Cup, I'll tell you I'm proud of myself. "The injury is part of the game. If that's the worst thing that happens to me, man, I'll be all right. I'm still going to be a big part of this year when I get back."
The Habs also lost defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who missed Tuesday's game with the Canucks due to an upper-body injury.

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