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Puck control a major goal for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Pascal Leclaire makes his second straight start in goal tonight for the Senators, who hope to extend their winning ways in a matchup with the Dallas Stars (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Check out the NHL game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Dallas matchup.


You can't score without the puck.

That basic truth about the game of hockey also has a rather critical flip side — giving it up to the opposition too many times can have dire consequences.

Turnovers will surely front of mind tonight, when the offensively potent Dallas Stars arrive at Scotiabank Place for the lone meeting of the seasons between the two teams (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200). With the likes of Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro to contend with, the Senators know puck control is extra important in this one.

"As a group, (it's about) making sure we don't turn pucks over," head coach Cory Clouston said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "We’ve got to keep moving pucks forward. They’re an opportunistic group that will make you pay if you turn pucks over. And if we do happen to turn the puck over, we need to be coming back with the right structure that we want."

And that call to arms extends beyond the group of six blueliners guarding the defensive zone in front of goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who makes his second straight start tonight. As centre Mike Fisher points out, the Senators' offensive struggles during a three-game road losing streak last week started in their own end. Ottawa was outscored 17-4 in those losses to the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and St. Louis Blues.

"We were giving up way too many goals and we weren’t playing as much with the puck," said Fisher. "When you’re doing that, you’re not generating things offensively. We’ve got to be better in our own end. When we’re playing with the puck and playing with confidence and making plays, then we’re scoring goals. We’ve just got to get back to that. It all relates to a good, solid team game. When that happens, we get everyone going, guys are feeling good and the pucks go in."

"We found a way to get the win (Monday). That’s important, especially when you’ve been losing — we had lost three in a row going into that game. You don’t want to sink down in the bench and feel sorry for yourself. It was a strong game for us mentally and we hope to carry on that momentum." - Jason Spezza
Added Clouston: "When you're turning the puck over in the neutral zone, you're not in good position. You're basically scrambling back into your own zone with not very good structure. So to us, it's limiting the turnovers, which will help our defencemen."

The Senators also want to keep building on Monday's gritty 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, which admittedly wasn't their top effort.

"Neither team played great," said captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We were able to get a big goal from Jason (Spezza) in the third and we played pretty well with the lead, I thought, throughout the third period. We liked the outcome. We would like a better all-around game (tonight) but at the same time, a win is a win."

In centre Jason Spezza's mind, it's about the bottom line, not style points.

"We found a way to get the win (Monday)," he said. "That’s important, especially when you’ve been losing — we had lost three in a row going into that game. You don’t want to sink down in the bench and feel sorry for yourself. It was a strong game for us mentally and we hope to carry on that momentum."

Around the boards

Interesting note about tonight's opponents: While the Stars (10-8-1) are slightly better the Senators (10-10-1) in the win-loss department, Dallas ranks 12th in the Western Conference — where all but two teams have winning records — and Ottawa stands eighth overall in the East ... Blueliner Erik Karlsson is a healthy scratch for the second straight game, while David Hale remains in the defence rotation. "He'll get back in soon enough," Clouston said of Karlsson. "There's not a whole lot he can do right now. Just work hard, be a good teammate and wait for an opportunity." ... The Senators are next in Pittsburgh for a "Black Friday" matinee against the Penguins on U.S. Thanksgiving weekend (1 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200) before returning home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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