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Senators getting back to basics in bid to break skid

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
They know exactly what it took to get to this place.

More of the same, the Ottawa Senators believe, should be the tonic to break a six-game winless skid and put them back on track in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. With three more home games this week, starting with Tuesday's matchup against the St. Louis Blues (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), there is a growing sense of urgency to get it started on familiar turf.

"We’re optimistic," Senators forward Nick Foligno said following practice earlier today at Scotiabank Place. "We know we’ve put ourselves in a good spot and I don’t think there’s any reason to panic right now. We’ve worked hard to get where we are and we’re in a good position. We know we need to win games, but we still feel like we’re right there and if we can tweak things a little bit, we’ll be playing winning hockey again."

Added defenceman Erik Karlsson: "It’s just small things right now. We’ve come a long way this season and this is where it’s going to decide if we’re a playoff team or not. It’s just about working those small things out to win the tight games."

The Senators, who were stung by a 5-0 home-ice blanking at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, welcomed the chance for a day off Sunday — not to mention a fresh start to a new week today. Paralysis by analysis, as the old saying goes, is something this team needs to guard against now, said captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"You have 82 games in a year and when things are going well, good things happen automatically at times," said Alfredsson. "But it’s the same thing when you’re losing. You can’t overanalyze everything. As a team, we know what we can do together and as an individual, you’ve got to look at 'what can I bring?' If you try to do too much, you just put yourself and the team in a tougher position. We think we have what it takes to turn this around. We know it’s not going to be easy — it’s a challenge and we look forward to it.

"When you're in a situation like we're in now, we need to dig a little deeper."

While the Senators reeled off an 8-1-1 stretch to begin January, they've clearly had trouble restarting their engine after the National Hockey League's five-day all-star break. Ottawa is 0-2-1 since then, producing only four goals in three games. They've only found the back of the net eight times in their current six-game skid.

"We’re not skating like we did before the break. Our team speed and our pace of play hasn’t been as good,” said Senators head coach Paul MacLean. “We all thought we’d come out the break, hit the gas and away we’d go. It hasn’t happened that way. Sometimes you’re playing good, sometimes you’re playing bad and right now, we’re not playing good.

“I think we’re getting better and we’ve got to go game by game, day by day and try to get better. That’s all we’ve done from Day 1 and that’s all we’re going to try to continue to do, try to get better. As our game evolves, we’ll play better."

Senators centre Jason Spezza believes it's a matter of getting back to what made the team successful for a one-month stretch starting in mid-December, when Ottawa played its best hockey of the season to date.

"You lose games and you get down on yourself a little bit," he said. "When you’re not scoring, you squeeze the stick a little bit tighter, so it’s good to have a foundation that we’ve created and we can fall back on and we feel comfortable with. Everybody feels the way we play the game translates well into good, close, competitive hockey games. We’ve built that foundation to fall back on and now this is when you use it.

"When you’re going through a losing streak, you go back to the things that got you the wins early on ... Right now, we're not playing like we feel we can play, but we're close. It's just minor tweaks and adjustments and just getting back to the fundamentals of our system."

Around the boards

It's a reunion week of sorts for the Senators, who are expected to face former goaltender Brian Elliott when they tangle with the Blues on Tuesday night. Then on Thursday, they'll welcome Mike Fisher back to Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) for the first time since he was dealt to the Nashville Predators on Feb. 12, 2011 ... It's also a huge milestone night on Thursday for Ottawa blueliner Chris Phillips, who is slated to play his 1,000th career NHL game. He'll become only the second to do it (after Alfredsson) all in a Senators uniform ... Defenceman Brian Lee practised with the team today and MacLean expects he should be available for Tuesday's matchup with the Blues ... MacLean remains undecided about his starting goaltender against St. Louis, meaning there's a chance Alex Auld could step in for Craig Anderson, who has made a career-high 17 straight starts ... Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for the contest against St. Louis, which is the teams' lone meeting of the season.

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