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Ailing Senators point toward Leafs

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Centre Peter Regin is one of a handful of Senators stricken by the flu bug, which could leave the team shorthanded for Saturday's matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).

(Check out the NHL game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Toronto matchup).

The Ottawa Senators are anxious to rediscover the winning formula that has been absent since their return from the Olympic break.

But it's anybody's guess as to who'll be available to conjure it up again Saturday night, when the Toronto Maple Leafs pay their second visit of the season to Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

A flu bug is hitting the Senators dressing room hard, with forwards Jarkko Ruutu, Ryan Shannon and Peter Regin all missing practice today because of illness. With defenceman Filip Kuba unlikely to suit up against the Leafs because of a lower-body injury, it could be a severely short-staffed Ottawa squad providing the opposition.

"We’ve got to see who’s even going to be ready to go tomorrow," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston, who didn't rule out the need to call up reinforcements from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y. "It's not a good time to have it, but that’s what we have to deal with."

The timing isn't the best, indeed, with the Senators (36-25-4) already feeling the sting of back-to-back 4-1 losses to the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week. This surely hasn't looked like the same team that reeled off a franchise-record 11-game winning streak before the break and soared into top spot in the Northeast Division.

That run was built on the backs of solid goaltending, strong defensive zone play and timely goal scoring. Pretty much all of that has gone missing in the last two games and the results haven't exactly been favourable, to say the least.

"Everybody can step it up one notch and that’s what we have to do," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson." It’s almost as if we’re (saying) ‘let’s go out and play and see what happens.’ We’re not initiating as we were before and we’ve got to be more hungry and more determined from the beginning.

"I think that’s the main thing. When we have the chance, (we need to) be a little more aggressive and forecheck the way we did in the third period in Carolina. It created a lot of chances that way and that’s been one of the biggest reasons for our success."

"Everybody can step it up one notch and that's what we have to do. It’s almost as if we’re (saying) 'let's go out and play and see what happens.' We're not initiating as we were before and we've got to be more hungry and more determined from the beginning. I think that's the main thing. When we have the chance, (we need to) be a little more aggressive and forecheck the way we did in the third period in Carolina. It created a lot of chances that way and that's been one of the biggest reasons for our success." - Daniel Alfredsson
Clouston echoed the same sentiment, adding the Senators can't take for granted the 10-point margin they currently enjoy over the ninth-place Rangers and Montreal Canadiens.

"We have to get back to the way we were playing before the break," he said. "(It's about) just showing some hunger, doing the little things well, and playing with some urgency. It just seems like we’ve built a bit of a cushion there and now we’ve kind of relaxed and we can’t do that. We’ve got to make sure we keep pushing hard."

That being said, centre Jason Spezza said the Senators aren't going to let back-to-back losses shake their ability to get the job done.

"We’ve just got to get (our momentum) back," he said. "It’s not time to panic. Two losses, you can make whatever you want out of it, but we’ve still got lots of hockey left."

And plenty of time to regain the habits that got the Senators rolling in the first place.

"We know how fine a line it is," said Alfredsson. "Wins are important but getting back to the way we were playing is more important. (We have to) try to find that feeling again and once we do, I’m sure we’ll get back on a roll."

Around the boards


Goaltender Pascal Leclaire barely lasted six minutes into his first start in nearly two months on Thursday when Clouston yanked him after the Hurricanes scored a pair of quick goals. But the affable netminder has already put the bad night behind him. "If I start thinking too much and try to find problems where there are no problems, I’m only going to get in trouble," said Leclaire. "I’m going to forget about it, look forward, make sure I have some good practices and things will come. I respect (Clouston's) decision and I want what’s best for the team. It is what it is" ... Forward Jesse Winchester also skipped practice today for what Clouston called "personal" reasons ... Fewer than 350 tickets remain for Saturday's game against the Leafs.

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