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Back to basics for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
With his team struggling for goals and victories, Bryan Murray took matters into his own hands on Friday morning.

The Ottawa Senators general manager met with his players before they hit the ice at Scotiabank Place on the morning after a discouraging 3-1 home-ice loss to the New York Islanders. It was the third straight loss for Ottawa (6-8-2), which produced a combined two goals in the setbacks.

There was no mistaking the message Murray delivered.

"I'm disappointed in our effort (Thursday) night," Murray told the media after the Senators wrapped up a brisk workout. "We didn't play well, we stood around in the first period. At one stage, it was 14-2 in shots against. Without Alex Auld in net last night, the game could have been over in the first period. So I'm disappointed in that."

Head coach Craig Hartsburg summed it up just about as simply.

"We can be better and we should be better and we have to get better," he said. "Really, in a nutshell, that was it and hopefully, the message is taken the same way.

"The players have to believe each other and they have to challenge each other to be their best right now."

There's little time for it all to sink in, with the Senators facing a rematch against the Islanders on Saturday night in Uniondale, N.Y. (7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200). But Murray's appearance, and the words that followed, weren't exactly the way the Senators wanted to start their Friday.

"Nobody wants to have your GM come in and talk to you like that, but (Thursday) wasn't a good game for us," said forward Dany Heatley. "I think (the solution) is in here and we all know we have to be better. It starts tomorrow.

"We need to get excited again and definitely raise the energy. For us to be a good team, that's how we have to play, with a lot of energy and an up-tempo skating game. We didn't do that yesterday and we have to get back to that."

Murray has been particularly alarmed by the Senators' lack of goal production from a team he's convinced is gifted offensively.

"We have a group of players that have the ability to score goals and we're not scoring goals," said Murray. "Every night, we're in jeopardy going into the third period because we get one or two goals in a game and try to survive with that. And that definitely isn't good enough."

Captain Daniel Alfredsson believes the solution to the Senators' current woes isn't complex.

"When you get into a funk and you're not playing well, you've got to go back to basics and put your work boots on and just put the effort in there," he said. "If you do that a couple of times in a row, then you build confidence and that's where we are right now.

"We're a little bit cautious. At times, we're almost afraid to lose. With this group, especially, we've got a lot of speed and we've got to be more aggressive, more assertive, I guess. That's what we talked about before practice and with the coaches as well. We can't wait for things to happen, we've got to make them happen."

Added defenceman Chris Phillips: "No matter what's going on or who is saying what, we're in this together and we have to go out and do it on the ice."

Auld (5-4-1) is slated to make his 11th start of the season on Saturday night.

Shannon sidelined by concussion

Hartsburg confirmed that Binghamton callup Ryan Shannon, who left Thursday's game on wobbly legs after taking an elbow to the head from the Islanders' Thomas Pock, has suffered a "significant" concussion and will be out indefinitely. Another B-Sens forward, Ilya Zubov, will join the big club for tomorrow's game on Long Island.

The incident occurred the day after Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu received a two-game suspension for what the National Hockey League deemed to be a blow to the head against the Canadiens' Maxim Lapierre during their game Tuesday night. Hartsburg wants and expects Pock to face the same sort of league discipline.

"I think it's obvious," he said. "Our guy got two games for an elbow and (there was) no injury, and this is a pretty significant injury."

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