The Cory Clouston era officially begins at Scotiabank Place tonight.
When the Ottawa Senators hit the ice against the Los Angeles Kings – the first of three home dates this week – it’ll mark the National Hockey League coaching debut for Clouston, who took over the coaching reins on Monday after Craig Hartsburg was relieved of his duties.
It's also a new beginning of sorts for a team that, at 17-24-7, finds itself standing 13th in the Eastern Conference and 14 points shy of a playoff position. The Senators also rank 29th in the NHL in goals per game, a statistic Clouston is already working diligently to change.
"We're going to be a little bit more aggressive and, hopefully, we can turn some more pucks over and gain some offence out of it," said captain Daniel Alfredsson
, who admits improvement in that area won't happen overnight. "I don't think there is going to be a miraculous change and everything is going to be cured. We're going to have to do a lot of work.
"If we buy in, I think we will turn more pucks over and be more aggressive. That's the best way to create offence and, hopefully, that's the case for us."
Clouston believes the Senators' struggles to score have done a lot to eat away at the team's confidence. But he feels he'll see more energy on the ice against the Kings.
"I think they're very positive, very optimistic and they're excited about the game tonight," he said. "It's going to take some time but I think one of the biggest changes (that is needed) is just getting these guys to feel good about themselves. They should be able to generate some energy just from that.
"I don't think there is going to be a miraculous change and everything is going to be cured. We're going to have to do a lot of work. If we buy in, I think we will turn more pucks over and be more aggressive. That's the best way to create offence and, hopefully, that's the case for us." - Daniel Alfredsson
"We're going to have to work on some of the things we're trying to change, which will take a little bit of time. But they're not drastic changes. We feel we're simplifying the game for them, if anything."
Added forward Jesse Winchester
: "I think it's pretty fresh. It's been two good practices, pretty upbeat, pretty confident. Maybe we can use that to string together a couple of wins."
Alfredsson sees the coaching change as a new opportunity for everyone.
"This is a fresh start for everybody," he said. "If you're a player who didn't play very much, he's not going to hold anything that happened in the past against you and you can start new. Hopefully, everyone can take advantage of that. Everyone wants to impress the new coach and show that you want more ice time."Donovan moving closer to return
Forward Shean Donovan, who has missed the past five games with a lower body injury, skated on his own this morning and said afterward he feels close to a return to the lineup.
"The way I feel now ... I hope for sure (by the weekend)," he said. "I feel good this morning.
"I hope tomorrow I can tell (the coaches) I can skate with the guys."
Donovan is three games shy of hitting the 900-game milestone in his NHL career, a feat already accomplished by two Senators teammates (Alfredsson and Dean McAmmond) in recent weeks.
Defenceman Alex Picard (upper body) also won't play tonight.Around the boards
Brian Elliott (4-2-1), who was pulled from Sunday's loss in Washington after surrendering four goals, returns to the Senators net tonight. He's eager to make amends. "You want to redeem yourself and show the guys you want to get back in there and get back on the winning track," he said. Clouston saw Elliott do just that plenty of times this season, when both were still with the Senators' American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y. "He's shown all season that his mental toughness is the thing he's improved the most since last year," said Clouston. "When he has a bad game, I don't think there has been one time when he hasn't bounced back with a solid, solid performance. We expect nothing but that from him tonight." ... Fewer than 2,250 tickets remain for tonight's game.