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Game Day 5: Sens @ Sabres

by Craig Medaglia @craigmedaglia / Ottawa Senators

The Sens wrap up their 7-game road trip in Buffalo tonight and we've got 5 game stories for you to check out before the puck drops against the Sabres.

1. Hoffman says

The Sens hit the ice in Buffalo yesterday and looked to start fresh after a tough trip through California that saw the team go 0-2-1 and fail to score in two of those games.

"I think if we knew what the problem was then we'd have a solution for it but it just seems that everything is going against us in every way," he said post-skate yesterday. "Eventually we're going to get out of it and when we do it's just going to have made us stronger in the future."

Amid the team's on-ice struggles, talk about potential changes has increased but according to Hoffman, his focus remains on hockey.

"All I'm focused on is my responsibilities and role on this hockey club and to do whatever I can to help this team as much as I can," said Hoffman of the external distractions.

With the Senators set to conclude their 15-day road trip tonight against the Sabres, Hoffman spoke about the team needing an increased sense of urgency and a victory in Buffalo could be the first step to righting the ship.

"A win is a win and there's still a lot of hockey to be played," he said. "We have to start accumulating some points before it's too late."

Video: OTT@NYI: Hoffman snaps wrister by Greiss for PPG

 

2. From the coach

Sens head coach Guy Boucher spoke with the media in Buffalo at the conclusion of the team's skate as well and shared a few thoughts about getting the team metally refreshed before facing the Sabres tonight...

On the goal of yesterday's practice:

It was about freeing their minds. This has been the toughest month in hockey that I've had in my life just because we've been on the road for a month and we've had some tough games that didn't turn our way. We're at the end of this road trip and we know it's heavy. We can feel it, guys get irritated real fast and everybody is feeling the same thing. Everybody wants the same thing, everybody is pushing. The stress, the heaviness and all that stuff is something that you have to take care of because if you don't it just becomes more and more heavy. You can't have energy if you don't have the enthusiasm and you can't have the enthusiasm if you can't get a free mind and that was our job today.


Nate Thompson's absence from practice yesterday:

It's maintenance for now unless tomorrow it hurts too much and he can't go. It was from when he blocked that shot but he should be ok. He'll get on the ice tomorrow and see where that's at.


On blocking out the external distractions that go along with a slump:

You can't be a great athlete if you're not focused on the moment, you can't be a good team if you're not focused on the moment and I think that last game was one of those games where we were not. We were focused on the past and the future and we were very tight. That's where the stress is, that's where the pressure is. There's always pressure, that's just something that exists, but when you add on and add on and add on...then it becomes like a boiling jar that just wants to blow and that's what you can't have or else you can't win games. We've recognized that and we've addressed it now and I think our players were great today. You saw a much more enthusiastic group.

Video: Dec 11: Boucher Practice Media

 

3. Scoring struggles

It's no secret that the Sens' current slump is directly related to their inability to find the back of the net with any kind of consistency over the past month but after reviewing some numbers, the last 4 games have been historically "not ideal".

The Sens have been shut out in 3 of the last 4 games for the first time in franchise history. As I dug back through the archives, the most recent comparable I could find was in way back in November of 1997 where they were blanked three times over a 6 game span (that was part of a larger 9-game winless streak). The last time that Ottawa has been shut out three times in the same month was February of last season which included back-to-back goose eggs against the Sabres and Blues.

Now this is typically a little more "glass half empty" than I like to be in the pre-game blog so let's go ahead and look at some of the positives.

That rough patch the team went through in February 2017? The Sens actually ended the month with a winning percentage above .500 (7-6-0) en route to a playoff berth a few weeks later and an eventual run to the Eastern Conference Final.

That disastrous November in 1997? The Sens responded to that by posting an 8-4-0 record the following month and ultimately went on to win the franchise's first playoff series in the modern era that post-season.

So here's my point: sometimes it's just a bad stretch of games and while a lot of people are echoing David after the Dentist's concerns of "Is this real life?" and "Is this going to be forever?", just ride it out because there's a good chance that everything eventually goes back to normal, buddy.

 

4. Previous meeting

It's the first encounter between these division rivals this season so we're rewinding all the way back to Valentine's Day 2017 when the Sabres rallied for a heartbreaking 3-2 win in Ottawa. After the Sens jumped out to a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Bobby Ryan and Dion Phaneuf, Buffalo scored twice in the final frame to complete the comeback.

Full highlights from that game below...

Video: OTT Recap: Sens deflated by Sabres' comeback

 

5. Where to watch

We've got ourselves a 7 p.m. start time tonight in Buffalo and you can catch all the action on TSN5 and RDS along with the radio broadcast on TSN 1200 with Dean Brown and Gord Wilson.

Tweet from @Senators: It's a #Sens game day! The Sens wrap up a 7-game road trip tonight in Buffalo as they are set to take on the Sabres. pic.twitter.com/bUKVGakEGD

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