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Clouston: 'We just have to move forward'

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Head coach Cory Clouston and the Senators have clearly been affected by the tragedy involving assistant coach Luke Richardson, but vow to begin moving forward (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

The whirlwind of emotion is only just beginning to subside.

And on a quiet Thursday afternoon in St. Louis, the Ottawa Senators bathed themselves in some  much-needed normalcy, with a practice session at the Scottrade Center providing sanctuary from the grief that engulfed them all for the last five days.

Head coach Cory Clouston admitted he could sense a shift in mood as the players began to move beyond the tragedy involving assistant coach Luke Richardson, whose 14-year-old daughter Daron died over the weekend.

"You could tell that," Clouston said when asked about the noticeable change among his troops today. "The atmosphere and the mood in the dressing room has been much better (today) than the last couple of days."

Wednesday was the roughest day of them all. The team attended a highly emotional memorial service for Daron Richardson at Scotiabank Place in the morning, then flew to Raleigh, N.C., for a scheduled game at night. But with their tank clearly on empty, the Senators were no match for the Carolina Hurricanes and absorbed a 7-1 beating.

"Yesterday and the last little while has definitely been hard," said centre Mike Fisher. "It puts things into perspective. There's a lot of different emotions ... you just feel so bad. You feel helpless."

Clearly, it wasn't a group ready to handle the Hurricanes or the Philadelphia Flyers, who rolled past Ottawa 5-1 on Monday night. But now it's time to turn the page and move on.

"We've got to put that behind us," said defenceman Matt Carkner. "Yesterday was a pretty tough day overall. We didn't come with our 'A' game (against the Hurricanes), but now we've got to park that and focus on what we can do it here. Let's get back in the saddle here and be positive and ready to go for the next game."

Added Clouston: "We just have to move forward. We have to realize that the last two games have not been close to good enough, for whatever reason. We can't make excuses. We know we went through a tough couple of days, but we've got to put our best foot forward and be much better (Friday) night."

Indeed, tomorrow night's matchup with the Blues (8 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200) in the finale of their four-game road trip offers the Senators to get things going in the right direction again. Ottawa was on an 8-3-0 roll before the week started.

"It's a great chance for redemption tomorrow," said Carkner. "It's just a chance to move on and play our game. We got away from it the last two games and we're excited (to be) here. We know we have a great squad in here and we're ready to play our game."

Clouston acknowledged it all starts with better execution, something that was clearly lacking against both the Canes and Flyers.

"Your head and your emotions have to be in order before anything can happen on the ice," he said. "You can 'x' and 'o' it to death, but if you’re not ready with your heart and your head, you’re not going to be able to go out there and execute. Today was all about refocusing and getting our game back on track.

"We turned the puck over way too many times the last couple of games and good teams ... they make you pay."

Around the boards

Fisher has been playing through an undisclosed nagging ailment that he admits has hampered his ability to play with his usual robust, physical style. But he doesn't believe sitting out a game or two will help his cause. "It’s something that’s going to take time and I don’t think a game (off) is going to make a huge difference," said Fisher. "I want to be in there and playing. It’s slowly getting better, but it’s going to take time. It’s just a frustrating thing." ... Friday night will mark the 200th National Hockey League game for Senators forward Ryan Shannon ... Alex Kovalev remains one point shy of the 1,000 plateau for his career.

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