You can't win if you don't score.
It is the most basic, inescapable truth about the game of hockey. And the Ottawa Senators were reminded of that the hard way one more time on Saturday night in a 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers. The lack of offensive firepower spoiled a 25-save effort by rookie goaltender Brian Elliott.
Needless to say, that's a situation the Senators aim to change tonight when they tangle with the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). It's the second of four meetings between the teams this season, with the Senators dropping a 2-1 decision in the first one Nov. 7 in Raleigh, N.C., after being unable to nurse a 1-0 lead to the final buzzer.
"We've had a struggle scoring goals all year, there's no question," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
said about the National Hockey League's lowest-scoring team. "Right now, every goal is big for us because we haven't scored many."
In an effort to give the team's struggling attack a jolt, Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg has shuffled the team's power-play units. Alfredsson will work alongside Jason Spezza
and either Mike Fisher or Chris Neil
, with defencemen Filip Kuba
and Brendan Bell working the points. Dany Heatley has been moved to another group with Nick Foligno
and Antoine Vermette, while Alex Picard and Christoph Schubert will man the blue line.
"We haven't produced as much on (the power play) as we need to," Hartsburg said after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "I think right now, instead of looking at it as (having a No. 1) unit, we're going to have one unit play a minute and the other unit play a minute. Let's get the work level up and the compete level up on the power play, rather than trying to play a perimeter game.
"Let's attack the net more and let's get traffic and play more basic and be hungrier on it. If we get two units doing it, maybe it's a little bit of a competition between them."
Fisher, for one, is up for that challenge.
"My job is just going to be to work the front (of the net) and make sure I'm creating havoc there and getting in front so their goalie can't see pucks," he said.
"Confidence is the biggest thing in hockey. That's why teams that are winning seem to keep winning and teams that are losing seem to keep losing. The only way you get confidence is by winning hockey games, so it's important for us to try to get some wins and get some confidence back." - Jason Spezza
Most importantly tonight, however, is seizing the opportunity to escape the grip of a five-game winless streak that has dropped the Senators (13-21-6) to 14th spot in the Eastern Conference, 15 points outside of a playoff berth. Nothing could do more right now to help lift this group's spirits than a victory.
"Confidence is the biggest thing in hockey," said Spezza. "That's why teams that are winning seem to keep winning and teams that are losing seem to keep losing. The only way you get confidence is by winning hockey games, so it's important for us to try to get some wins and get some confidence back."
Getting back to another one of those basic sentiments about the game can't exactly hurt in that area, either, said Hartsburg.
"We have to be focused and we have to try to still enjoy playing hockey," he said. "Players player their best when they come to the rink and they enjoy being here. It's awful tough when you're losing but we've got to try to keep the focus on that and having players play their best."
Added Spezza: "Right now, we're a team that's pretty uptight because of the fact that we can't get wins. We've got to relax on our off days and get focused on game days and get ready to go."Around the boards
Fisher suits up for his 500th NHL game tonight, all of them with the Senators. The 28-year-old centre is in his ninth season with the team. "It's flown by," he said with a grin. "I've had lots of injuries and stuff, too, so it's been longer in coming than it probably should have been but I don't feel so young anymore." ... Ottawa gets forward Jarkko Ruutu back from a two-game suspension. His younger brother, Tuomo, is a Hurricanes forward ... The Senators are 9-7-3 at Scotiabank Place this season ... Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for tonight's game ... Later tonight, the Sens head off to Atlanta, where they'll face the Thrashers on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).