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Senators' goal now is a simple one

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The Senators are hopeful that centre Chris Kelly will return to the lineup Saturday night in Vancouver against the Canucks. Kelly sat out Thursday's loss to the Calgary Flames with a lower-body injury (Getty Images).

Good things, it's been said, come to those who wait.

So despite his team's dearth of goals since the Olympic break, Ottawa Senators head coach Cory Clouston remains confident an outburst of offence is just around the corner. It's a belief that was reinforced Thursday night in Calgary, even if the Senators were blanked 2-0 by Miikka Kiprusoff and the Flames.

It wasn't for lack of trying at the Pengrowth Saddledome. Kiprusoff stopped 33 Ottawa shots and his teammates blocked another 30 in front of him. That's 63 scoring attempts right there for the Senators without turning the red light on and that doesn't include the shot Peter Regin rang off the crossbar in the second period or the post Matt Cullen hit later on.

"I’m not going to question or criticize our effort," Clouston told reporters earlier today in Vancouver, where the Senators have landed to begin preparations for Saturday's matchup with the Canucks at General Motors Place (10 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). "We’re playing hard, we’re playing well. We just aren’t scoring right now. I don’t know what else to tell you. We’ve hit posts, we’ve had disallowed goals … sometimes you go through those stretches.

"We’ve had stretches where everything seems to go in for us. But it’s a long 82-game season and we’ve just got to keep working hard and not get flustered and change the way we play. We played a team that’s been playing very well. We felt that we outplayed them and outchanced them. Faceoffs were on our side. Every category was except the one that matters most, goals for and against. We felt we played very well."

Outside of Tuesday's 4-1 victory in Edmonton against the Oilers, the Senators have struggled to find the back of the net in recent games. They scored three goals in their first three games back from the Olympic break and then came the goose egg in Calgary. But centre Jason Spezza, who went on an eight-game personal goal-scoring tear in January, knows that scoring can be a hot and cold thing.

"We’re playing hard, we’re playing well. We just aren’t scoring right now. I don’t know what else to tell you. We’ve hit posts, we’ve had disallowed goals ... sometimes you go through those stretches. We’ve had stretches where everything seems to go in for us. But it’s a long 82-game season and we’ve just got to keep working hard and not get flustered and change the way we play." - Cory Clouston
"It’s one of those unexplainable things in sport," he told Vancouver's Team 1040 in a radio interview today. "If somebody could bottle it, I think everyone would want it. I always try to tell myself that when it’s going good, it’s not as good as it seems and when it’s going bad, it’s not going as bad as it seems.

"You’ve just got to try to find that level of consistency but definitely, when you do get hot, the puck does find a way to get in the net a little more often."

The chore doesn't figure to get much easier on Saturday against the Canucks and Roberto Luongo, their Olympic gold-medal winning goaltender. But Spezza likes where his team's game is headed, despite the Senators' 1-3-1 record since the break.

"We had two not too good games right away right after the break and then got the win against the Oliers," said Spezza. "We probably deserved to win last night ... we played a pretty good game. The record isn’t where we want it to be but we’re going in the right direction.

"Our last two games were the type of hockey we want to play and the first two, hopefully, are just an afterthought now."

Around the boards

Clouston lists forward Chris Kelly (lower body) as probable for Saturday's game against the Canucks. He was a last-minute scratch in Calgary, with Shean Donovan being inserted into the lineup in Kelly's place ... Forward Nick Foligno (broken right fibula) and defenceman Filip Kuba (lower body) continue make progress and Clouston expects to see both on the ice with the rest of the team for practice on Monday in Ottawa ... Defenceman Anton Volchenkov reached a statistical milestone on Thursday night, blocking his 1,000th career shot since the National Hockey League began recording the statistic in the 2005-06 season.


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