|Brian Lee (left), captain Daniel Alfredsson (centre) and Mike Fisher listen to instructions from coach Cory Clouston during Senators practice earlier today at Scotiabank Place.
Talk about just the right time to be getting a second wind.
Faced with a gruelling five-game road trip through three time zones, the Ottawa Senators sounded and felt like an energetic bunch before they boarded the plane to Buffalo earlier this afternoon to begin their week-long odyssey.
They'll face off against the Sabres on Wednesday night at HSBC Arena (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200), then move on to Philadelphia for a Thursday showdown with the Flyers (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). After that come stops in Minnesota on Saturday, Nashville on Monday and Colorado on Tuesday before a return to Scotiabank two days later to take on the Vancouver Canucks.
It's a potentially wearying stretch, to be sure, but this a group that feels like it truly has its legs in the right place to handle the grind.
"Everyone is feeling a lot better," forward Dany Heatley said after the Senators held another spirited workout at Scotiabank Place. "There is a lot more energy in here and I think that's transferred over to our games and it's going to transfer over into the rest of our year."
Since taking over the team a week ago, Senators head coach Cory Clouston has the Senators playing a more up-tempo style. And he believes the seeds for doing it effectively begin on the practice ice.
"I think our guys today ... their legs feel way better than they did a week ago," he said. "If you ask the guys, (they'll tell you) they feel more energized. We've created practices that have forced them to skate (and) to move their feet more."
To hear forward Nick Foligno
tell it, that's exactly what the Senators need right now.
"That's the way you should have practices run, especially in the NHL," he said. "Guys are moving all the time and that's the way we need to be. That translates into games. If we're moving in practice, we're going to be moving on the ice (in games).
"There are a lot of guys enjoying the practices the way they are. They're a little tough but that's the way they need to be."
"Their legs feel way better than they did a week ago. If you ask the guys, (they'll tell you) they feel more energized. We've created practices that have forced them to skate." - Cory Clouston
Added captain Daniel Alfredsson
: "It seems like everybody is getting more energy out of it. It's been a good change for us."
So, too, has been the style of play. The Senators fired 42 pucks at Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller in Saturday's 3-2 shootout victory at Scotiabank Place.
"We want them to shoot," said Clouston. "We have guys who can shoot the puck. A good example of that is (Antoine) Vermette. There was a rush just before he scored his goal where he tried to be too fancy and make a pass and it got turned over.
"On the bench, we just reiterated 'you've got a good shot. Use that.' A couple of minutes later, he comes down the ice and you can't ask for a much better shot than that. He puts it right under the crossbar."Around the boards
Forward Shean Donovan (lower body) and defenceman Alex Picard (upper body) are both on the road trip and there is a chance both might suit up against the Sabres. "I would say Shean for sure, as long as he's healthy, but we'll see how (Picard's) injury is," said Clouston, who was still awaiting final clearance from the team's doctors on both players ... Given the busy road stretch, goaltenders Brian Elliott and Alex Auld
will both see action in the next week. "I'm not exactly sure when but we have a bit of a plan mapped out," said Clouston, who has yet to name his starter in Buffalo.