|Goaltender Brian Elliott and the Senators want to get right back to their winning ways now that the Olympic break is over (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
They headed into the Olympic break as the National Hockey League's hottest team.
Now, more than two weeks later, the Ottawa Senators are hoping to pick up exactly where they left off — riding a 14-2-0 streak that pushed them to the top of the Northeast Division standings. But despite the rust that no doubt accumulated during the lengthy layoff, the Senators are confident their game legs will quickly be ready for the 19 games that remain in the 2009-10 schedule.
"It's the home stretch for us now and we're excited," centre Jason Spezza
said after the Senators' practice earlier today at Scotiabank Place. "I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position and we’ve just got to get back to the level we were playing at before the break.
"We understand what's at stake and there's not a lot of room for error. There's 19 games left and we've just got to bring the best we've got, and try to get it back as soon as possible. It's going to take a little bit of time — we were playing like a well-oiled machine there at one point and now we’ve just got to get it back."
It'll need to happen in a hurry. Tuesday night's matchup with the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) marks the first of three games this week. Then it's off to western Canada for road contests next week against the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.
"I don't think it's easy," said goaltender Brian Elliott, whose strong play helped spark the pre-Olympic hot streak. "We finished going into the break really well and having that same attitude … I don’t think guys lost it over the break. It’s just that, when we come back here, we have the confidence and the know-how that we can play with anybody in the league.
"We’ve just got to take that and be prepared right off the bat and not get behind teams, and try to play with a lead like we have been."
"We finished going into the break really well and having that same attitude ... I don’t think guys lost it over the break. It’s just that, when we come back here, we have the confidence and the know-how that we can play with anybody in the league. We’ve just got to take that and be prepared right off the bat and not get behind teams, and try to play with a lead like we have been." - Brian Elliott
For his part, Senators coach Cory Clouston is happy to have all of his players back from the Vancouver 2010 Games. Even forward Jarkko Ruutu of bronze-medal winning Finland, who didn't return until 3 a.m. today, was on the ice with his teammates.
"There was a lot better energy out there," said Clouston. "It feels like your team again. You're able to do different drills, you're able to get the line combinations you want to work with and just a much better atmosphere."
While the Olympians had games to play over the last two weeks, the rest of the team sat cooling its heels. Needless to say, everyone is itching to play for real again.
"We’re all excited to get going with the games," said centre Matt Cullen, who was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes just before the break. "It was fun to watch the Olympics and all that, but I think we’re ready to get going here and get ready for the (final) push."Around the boards
Rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson
has been declared good to go for Tuesday's matchup against the Rangers. "It will be a great thing to get back out there on the ice again," said the 19-year-old Karlsson, who's been sidelined since Feb. 5 with a shoulder injury ... Fewer than 2,500 tickets remain for the game against the Rangers, while 1,250 are left for Saturday's matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).