MONTREAL - The Ottawa Senators are without Jason Spezza indefinitely but they're not about to blame recent offensive struggles on his absence.
In the two games they've played since it was announced that Spezza was undergoing back surgery, the Senators have managed just one goal and dropped two straight to Carolina and Montreal.
"We created some scoring opportunities today but just didn't score. I don't think it's because Jason's not here," Senators coach Paul MacLean said following his team's 2-1 loss to the Canadiens on Sunday afternoon. "If we weren't creating any scoring opportunities, I think we would be more concerned about it and maybe there would be some justification to it.
"The scoring opportunities are there; we just have to finish."
Ottawa did just that in its two games without Spezza prior to the announcement and won both, scoring eight goals in the process. Five of those came against Montreal on Wednesday night in Ottawa.
"It helps a lot when he's on the ice, no question, but we are on the road and we've been playing fairly solid. We've had chances we just haven't been able to get those goals when we need them, which is important if you're going to win games," said captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We're going to have to keep working and hopefully we can improve on our slow starts."
While the offence has struggled in the past two games, Ottawa continues to get stellar goaltending out of Craig Anderson. The veteran netminder not only has yet to let more than two pucks past him in the eight games he's played this season, he has yet to give up a goal after the first period.
That trend continued against the Canadiens on Sunday, as he stopped 20 shots over the final 40 minutes. Factoring in the game's numbers, he remained atop the league with a minuscule 1.12 goals-against average and remarkable .964 save percentage.
"My job is to give the team an opportunity to win. That's all I can focus on," Anderson said. "I can't score goals so I'm not going to worry about that. I've got to make sure that the way things are going that I keep them out of the net."
The Senators have been pleased, for the most part, with their play in both losses, even more so against Montreal than in Carolina. But with the effort they've been getting between the pipes, the lack of results in front of Anderson is disappointing.
"We played decent games. We still feel we can play better but with the goaltending we're getting. It feels like we should make more of that," Alfredsson said.
Ottawa will now benefit from a four-game homestand, featuring a double shot of the Buffalo Sabres, the Hurricanes and Winnipeg Jets ??? a stretch they hope renews their high-powered offence.
"We've got to use the enthusiasm from our building and the crowd as motivation and maybe a little lift for us," Anderson said. "Home ice is going to be very important and we have to make the most of it."