|Brian Elliott and the Senators aim to extend their unbeaten streak to five games when they face the New Jersey Devils tonight at Scotiabank Place (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Today is the first day of the rest of the Ottawa Senators' season.
And owner Eugene Melnyk remains convinced that his team's improved stretch of play before the National Hockey League's all-star break is a sign of more positive things to come.
"I think everybody is breathing a little sigh of relief," Melnyk said earlier today when asked about the Senators' current 3-0-1 run. "I'm so excited about tonight's game."
The Senators face off against the New Jersey Devils tonight at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) still staring at a major deficit in their bid to snare an Eastern Conference playoff berth. They're currently in 13th spot, 12 points outside of a playoff position, but Melnyk has a good feeling about the momentum his team will carry into the remainder of the season.
"Look, anything can happen," he said after speaking at a press conference to unveil the latest news about Senators Sports & Entertainment's bid for a Major League Soccer franchise. "My Mississauga St. Mike's Majors (of the Ontario Hockey League), before the world juniors began, were under .500. They went out and won nine in a row. They went from out of the playoffs to third or fourth in their conference and they will now be in the playoffs.
"All we need is some luck. We need hard work and we need the momentum. I think this could be the beginning of the momentum I've been talking about all season. I really hope it is."
Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg and his players are steadfastly sticking to a "one game at a time" approach that will be their mantra going forward.
"We know we're not in a great position but at the same time, we've made a decision not to look too far ahead," said centre Mike Fisher, who'll move to the wing again tonight alongside Nick Foligno
and Binghamton callup Peter Regin
. "The game (that matters) is the one ahead of us and that's tonight. We know it's a big game for us and we've got to focus on this and continue on.
"Before the break, we played pretty well and we've just got to continue playing that same way and give ourselves a chance."
"We know we're not in a great position but at the same time, we've made a decision not to look too far ahead. The game (that matters) is the one ahead of us and that's tonight." - Mike Fisher
Added Hartsburg: "We don't worry about the math (involved in making the playoffs). It's one game. The number we worry about is one. That's tonight."
While Melnyk is very aware of how big the chore is, he subscribes to the same line of thinking.
"It's a question of every single game at a time," he said. "We're all very, very cognizant of the fact we've got to win 28 games (over) the balance of the season. That's a tough, tough thing to do but is it doable? There's no question about it.
"I think this team has the grit, I think we have the fans to support it and they sure have the management and the coaching to do it."
Around the boards
For the first time this season, veteran defenceman Jason Smith will be a healthy scratch. "I was surprised and disappointed," he said about receiving the news from Hartsburg. "You become a player in this league to play games and do whatever you can to help the team have success. I pride myself on going out and working hard and I'll continue to do that." ... Regin's callup makes Christoph Schubert a healthy scratch as well ... Brian Elliott (3-1-1) makes his sixth straight start in the Senators net ... Fewer than 1,250 tickets remain for the game.