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Senators getting back to basics

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
There’s a new man in charge on the Ottawa Senators’ bench.

But the team’s players know that head coach/general manager Bryan Murray – who replaced John Paddock on Wednesday – can’t just make all their troubles go away with the wave of a magic wand.

And that there’s no escaping their current 7-13-2 funk overnight.

“You can’t change the coach and all of a sudden, everybody starts playing better,” centre Jason Spezza said after an up-tempo team practice Friday morning at Scotiabank Place. “We’ve got to start a process again of working hard, doing the right things and getting back to doing everything right. You’ll lose games when you do things right, too, but I think eventually you’ll win more than you lose.”

Added linemate Dany Heatley: “It’s taken us some time to get into this hole and it’s going to take some time to get out of it. We’ve just got to start by outworking the other team and getting pucks to the net.”

In other words, it’s about getting back to hockey basics, which happens to suit the philosophy Murray brings to the rink each day.

“I’m a real basic coach, there’s no question,” said Murray, who was back behind the Senators’ bench for Thursday’s 3-1 loss in Philadelphia. “I’d like them to play the way the game is supposed to be played. Play together, play your position, make some passes, work real hard, have some emotion, and things will fall into place for you.”

Murray saw a little bit of that against the Flyers, but he knows his team will have to step it up another notch or two when the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins visit Scotiabank Place on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

“It’s not going to turn around in one game,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “There were things we worked on today in practice that we can do better. But we’ve got to make sure we bring the same work ethic that we did (Thursday night). You need to play well and sometimes you might not win, but I think we’re going in the right direction.

“I liked the way we played at times (against the Flyers). You could see the work ethic was there.”

What the Senators might see by Saturday morning is a major drop in their position in the standings. If the Montreal Canadiens win tonight in Buffalo, they’ll seize top spot in the Northeast Division standings and drop the Senators to fifth overall in the Eastern Conference. All of which adds to the urgency of the situation, with only 17 games left to play in Ottawa’s regular schedule.

“The problem we have is time,” said Murray. “Game after game after game in a hurry. We’ve brought in three new players at the trading deadline and getting them into the chemistry of the team (takes time).”

Said Spezza: “We’ve gone through an unfortunate situation with the coaching (change). But we know we’ve got to get better or time is going to run out on us.”

One of the newcomers, Martin Lapointe, said it’s up to the players to reverse the tide.

“You can have any coach out there,” said Lapointe, acquired earlier this week from the Chicago Blackhawks. “But it’s all up to us. There’s no excuses. We’ve (got) a great bunch of guys here, and we have to take the bull by the horns and make it happen.

“The bottom line is, it’s up to us at the end of the day.”

Around the boards

Martin Gerber (23-11-3) makes the start in goal against the Penguins … Defenceman Anton Volchenkov (bruised chest) didn’t practice today and Murray said he isn’t sure yet if he’ll suit up Saturday … Fewer than 50 tickets remain for the game.

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