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Consistency the key for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Yes, it was a vital step in the right direction for the Ottawa Senators.

Now head coach Craig Hartsburg wants to see more of the kind of display his team showed in an impressive 5-2 triumph over the Sabres in Buffalo on Monday night. The victory, which ended a four-game losing streak for the Senators (3-5-1), offered another glimpse of just how good this team can be when it's on its game.

"(If we) play with that mindset every night, we'll be a good team," Hartsburg said Tuesday in the wake of the big win in Buffalo. "That's been the struggle so far, finding that consistency with that high level of desperation and competing.

"That's the challenge for everybody involved, players included. We know there's a level we can play at. Now it's getting there every night and having that focus.... We're at the point in this season where we've got to start getting some wins. We're not going to do that unless we play consistently well as a team."

Monday night, it started with solid goaltending by Alex Auld and an all-around commitment to team defence. Hartsburg said that type of play is the key to everything.

"The step forward is that we played good team defence," he said. "Everybody was back and there were not a lot of passengers in that part of it. There are areas of our game we want to continue to get better at. The more we move the puck out of our end with authority, it's going to help our game and it's going to help our offence.

"We did a decent job (Monday) night but we can continue working at that and we have to keep addressing it."

The Senators' offence did perk up in a big way against the Sabres, with top guns Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson combining for seven points, including three goals. But Hartsburg continues to be impressed by the work of fourth-liners Dean McAmmond and Shean Donovan, who have teamed up to contribute three goals in the last two games.

"Dean McAmmond is a guy that, to me, has been really good in the last little while," he said. "His line again got a goal for us. They're helping. That's been a big plus for our team, how McAmmond has played and how Shean Donovan has helped in that area.

"Those guys on the fourth line, they play well but they feel they're contributing. They're getting goals for us and even if they don't score, their game has been real good. They've put pressure on the other team."

Around the boards

The Senators travelled today to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where they will begin preparations for Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m., NHL Network, Team 1200). The four-game road trip concludes Saturday in Tampa vs. the Lightning ... No word yet on whether goaltender Martin Gerber will dress Thursday. "I'm not sure yet," said Hartsburg. "We'll see how Martin is today and tomorrow." ... Fewer than 2,500 tickets remain for each of the Senators' next three home games: Nov. 4 (Washington), Nov. 6 (Philadelphia) and Nov. 13 (New York Islanders).

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