OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray read the riot act to his players Wednesday after a 5-2 road loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Ottawa fell to 14-16-6 after following a 3-2 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday with the loss to the Devils. It was the seventh straight time the Senators failed to win consecutive games, dating to a season-high three-game winning streak from Nov. 5-9.
Right wing Bobby Ryan said he and his teammates got a clear message from Murray in the Prudential Center dressing room.
"Ruling out all the expletives, 'Wake up!'" Ryan said after Ottawa held an optional skate Thursday. "Wake up and show up. I think what I took most out of it is that we can be the most maddening team he's ever seen. That's a team that shows up against St. Louis, plays a great hockey game, complete for 63 minutes, and then plays zero against a team like New Jersey."
Ottawa captain Jason Spezza said Murray did not deliver any ultimatums or threats, "but it's a definite understanding that if we don't start playing better it could be you out the door."
Spezza, in his first season as captain after Daniel Alfredsson left in July to sign with the Detroit Red Wings, believes his teammates have not lost hope.
"We show glimpses of being a really good hockey team but we just don't do it enough," Spezza said. "We don't do it consistently and we don't play enough as a team. We don't use each other well enough, we don't show close support, we don't help each other out as much as I think we should."
Frustrated with the inconsistency, Senators coach Paul MacLean called out his team's leadership after the loss to New Jersey. Although that's a shot across the bow for Spezza and alternate captains Chris Phillips and Chris Neil, the coach's challenge was felt throughout the team.
"With a guy like [Alfredsson] leaving it's a transition period for guys that are learning to be leaders," Ryan said. "I don't think that they're failing to get their point across. I don't think it's falling on deaf ears by any means. I think the right guys say the right things at the right times, and it's not just on the guys that wear the letters. Some of us, and not ruling myself out, maybe just need to lead by example a little more and recognize that everybody can be a leader in their own right. But to put it on those three guys because they wear the letters is unfair."
Defenseman Marc Methot will return to the Senators' lineup Thursday against the Florida Panthers after sitting out three games while recovering from the flu.
"I'm really anxious to play," Methot said. "I feel great. I've got a lot of energy. I didn't play [Wednesday], so there's no excuse for me [Thursday]."
Florida interim coach Peter Horacheck said he expects forward Jonathan Huberdeau will be back in the lineup against Ottawa.
Huberdeau sat out the first two games of the Panthers' four-game Canadian road trip, against the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, because of a right foot injury. He said he felt well after Florida's morning skate at Canadian Tire Centre and was looking forward to trying to help extend the Panthers' four-game winning streak, their longest in two years.
"We're playing well right now so I want to be a part of it and help the team," Huberdeau said.
Here are the projected lineups for the Panthers and Senators:
Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Krys Barch - Shawn Matthias - Jimmy Hayes
Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson
Scratched: Scott Gomez, Mike Mottau
Injured: Tim Thomas (lower body), Ed Jovanovski (lower body), Jesse Winchester (hand)
Clarke MacArthur - Jason Spezza - Mika Zibanejad
Milan Michalek - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan
Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Matt Kassian - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Erik Condra
Jared Cowen - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Cody Ceci
Marc Methot - Joe Corvo
Scratched: Eric Gryba, Patrick Wiercioch, Cory Conacher