|Senators forward Jesse Winchester is nearing the end of his two-week conditioning stint with the Binghamton Senators, which head coach Don Nachbaur termed as "outstanding." (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images).
The first month of hockey is now officially in the books.
And while the reviews were somewhat mixed toward the end of it, October still provided the Ottawa Senators with the right kind of starting off point in their bid to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs. At 6-4-2, the Senators currently find themselves tied for sixth spot in the Eastern Conference with the Montreal Canadiens.
There's not much in the way of breathing room below them, though, with a mere three points separating Ottawa from the 12th-place Atlanta Thashers. All of which means the Senators need to make November a month to remember, especially with nine of their 11 games during that time set for the friendly confines of Scotiabank Place.
"They’re all important," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
said with an eye toward the month ahead. "You look at the standings and see how tight it is. Home is where you’d like to make the difference, but every point is important.
"We would love to do well at home here and set ourselves up for the (way the) schedule is at the end of November and going forward. If we can have a good record here, it’ll take pressure off us down the road."
Senators head coach Cory Clouston believes that can also be achieved by finding ways to hit the scoreboard first again. In a 5-1-0 stretch that followed their season-opening loss to the New York Rangers, Ottawa shooters produced the first goal in every contest. They've done it only once since then, producing a 1-2-2 mark in those games.
"Wherever they’re played, we’ve just got to get back on track," he said following the Senators' practice earlier today at the Bell Sensplex. "We’ve got to get better starts and we’ve just got to start burying more of our chances.
"You look at the standings and see how tight it is. Home is where you’d like to make the difference, but every point is important. We would love to do well at home here and set ourselves up for the (way the) schedule is at the end of November and going forward. If we can have a good record here, it’ll take pressure off us down the road." - Daniel Alfredsson
"(So far) we've been a little bit inconsistent but for the most part, we played well. Even our losses, other than one or two of them, we’ve played well. We need better starts. It makes a big difference. So we just have to have better starts and follow through with that consistency."Winchester nearing Ottawa return
Forward Jesse Winchester
's two-week conditioning stint with the Binghamton Senators wraps up Wednesday night with a road game against the Albany River Rats. Ottawa sent the Long Sault, Ont., native to its American Hockey League affiliate as the final stage in his recovery from a right knee injury that has kept him from making his season debut with the big club.
Winchester has produced four points in three games worth of duty with the B-Sens, including a pair of goals. Binghamton head coach Don Nachbaur termed his efforts "outstanding," adding "he's been a positive influence on our lineup."
"His first game in Syracuse, I thought he was the best player on the ice," Nachbaur said of Winchester, who should return to Ottawa later this week. "And he hasn't relented in that work ethic. (He showed) the true mark of a professional in that he came down here and he knew what he had to do."Around the boards
The MRI on defenceman Anton Volchenkov revealed some ligament damage in his right elbow, but Clouston still called it a "positive" result. "We’re hoping (he'll return) in a week to 10 days, somewhere in that range, knowing him," said Clouston. "It could be as long as two weeks. It’s a matter of getting the swelling out of the elbow and once that happens, it’s basically just getting some strength back in and getting ready to play." ... Centre Jason Spezza
, who's missed the past two games with a lower body injury, didn't practise today and is "doubtful" for Thursday's matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200) ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for that game, which has also been designated as Canadian Forces Appreciation Night.