Sooner rather than later, the Ottawa Senators firmly believe their reward is going to come.
It was an upbeat group of players that went through a spirited practice session at Scotiabank Place earlier today, a mere 12 hours or so after they'd felt the sting of a second straight shootout loss, this time 3-2 at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. That one came on the heels of a 2-1 setback Monday night in New York, also via the dreaded shootout.
In both cases, the Senators (6-9-4) held leads in the third period and couldn't slam the door shut. But to a man, they can see the proverbial bright light at the end of the tunnel. That their current six-game winless slide is closer than ever to reaching its end.
"We took a lot of good things away from (Thursday's) game," said forward Nick Foligno
, whose third-period goal looked like it might stand up as a winner for awhile. "I think we're starting to play a full 60 minutes, which is something we've been trying to do since the beginning of the year. Finally, we're starting to put that kind of effort together.
"It's exciting. We know we're right around the corner from winning a game. It's just (needing) a little more effort in certain places and, hopefully, we'll get our win."
Added defenceman Chris Phillips
: "We're working as hard as we can. If we continue to do that, I think we will start to get rewarded with some bounces that will go our way. We just have to stick with it. We can't get down because we're not (winning).
"You can only control what you can and that's basically our work ethic and sticking to the plan. Do that and let the good things and results fall into place."
Head coach Craig Hartsburg, meanwhile, couldn't be more convinced that his team is on the right path. The key now, he said, is to maintain that direction, even when the end result isn't exactly what anyone desires.
"You're going to play some great games and lose, like we've done," he said. "But you have to continue to build and say 'this is how we're playing night in and night out' and believe that you're going to get a reward for it. And I believe we will.
"If we continue to play like this, we will win our share of games. If we don't play this way, it's a step back and we're starting from scratch again."
It's a message the coaching staff does its best to reinforce every day.
"We're trying to do everything we can to make sure (the players) see that we're playing well right now in the last couple of games, and we've got to continue that," said Hartsburg. "There are areas in which we can play better and we've addressed that.
"But we've got to believe and stay with it."
Captain Daniel Alfredsson
made it clear the resolve exists in the Senators dressing room to keep doing just that, with the Rangers back at Scotiabank Place on Saturday (3 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).
"We've got to keep working," he said. "I believe you make your own breaks and if you work hard, you're going to get them. We're doing that and we've just got to continue. We can't afford to have a letdown now, we've got to push ourselves. But it's not going to come easy."Around the boardsAlex Auld
(5-5-3) will make his sixth straight start in goal for the Senators on Saturday ... The game marks the debut of the Senators' new black third jersey. Fewer than 500 tickets remain for the contest. Only 750 are left for the Toronto Maple Leafs' first appearance at Scotiabank Place this season, set for Thursday night (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200).