They'd dearly love to ring in the new year with a victory.
But the Ottawa Senators are thinking bigger than that. Sure, they'd be happy to bring a halt to their 12-game road winless skid with a win tonight at Edmonton's Rexall Place against the Oilers (10 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Even better if it signals the beginning of a stretch of the kind of hockey it's going to take to push them closer to an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
"We've got to take it game by game," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
said as he pondered the 10-point gap the Senators (12-17-5) need to erase to move into playoff position. "We can't say (let's do it) next trip or after Christmas or after New Year's. We've got to try to start something every game and if we get it going, we've got to keep it going.
"We've had stretches before where we've played really well. Maybe we haven't won all the games but we've got to get back to that, be a little harder to play against and build confidence and trust in each other that way. We're obviously not getting it done for 60 minutes."
Twice on this road trip, the Senators showed signs of emerging from the scoring slump that has plagued them in recent weeks. But they still ended up on the short end of games in Philadelphia (6-4) and Calgary (6-3). Then it went the other way again Sunday night in Vancouver, with the Canucks blanking Ottawa 3-0.
"It's really been inconsistency," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips
. "We've had games where we've scored lots of goals and unfortunately, we've given up more than we've scored. We have games where we play well defensively but just can't generate any offence. It bounces around from night to night and I think that's a frustrating thing for everyone. It hasn't been one thing."
The Senators catch a bit of a break tonight against the Oilers, who will be forced to go without injured forward Ales Hemsky, one of their top offensive threats. But Ottawa is still without two of its regular blueliners, Anton Volchenkov (upper body) and Filip Kuba
(groin). Regardless, the story line remains the same in the mind of Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg.
"To win on the road, everybody has to play well," said Hartsburg. "You don't win on the road by having half your team play well and then on the next night, the other half plays well. It's about consistency and everybody getting ready to play a full 60 minutes."
He's still convinced the Senators are a team that can solve its current dilemma.
"We still believe in our team," said Hartsburg. "We believe in our players and we believe in ourselves that we can get this thing straightened out."
No time like the present to get started, said centre Jason Spezza
"We've got to try to salvage this trip by getting a win (tonight)," he said.Around the boards
Martin Gerber (3-7-1) makes his second straight start in goal tonight ... The Oilers have won three straight ... The second half of the Senators' current eight-game road swing begins Saturday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), followed by a trip to Newark, N.J., the following night to visit the Devils. Games at the Buffalo Sabres (Jan. 6) and Boston Bruins (Jan. 8) close out the long stretch away from home before the New York Rangers arrive at Scotiabank Place on Jan. 10.