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Senators refreshed for stretch drive

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Ryan Shannon and the Sens are eager to pick up where they left off before the Olympic break, when a 14-2-0 streak pushed them to the top of the Northeast Division (Getty Images).

It wasn't exactly all hands on deck at the Bell Sensplex.

But while five of their teammates chase Olympic gold in Vancouver, the Ottawa Senators returned to the ice earlier today to begin preparing for the stretch drive they hope will lead to some post-season prosperity.

There is still plenty of time yet, however, before the schedule resumes March 2 with a visit by the New York Rangers to Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200), so today was all about reacquainting themselves with the practice routine.

"Today was just (a chance) to get a real good sweat going," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of his players, who are just back from a nine-day Olympic break. "It’s tough to do any system things when you have such small numbers (on the ice). But you still want to get your legs back under you, get your timing back and get your conditioning back to where it was."

With a 14-2-0 stretch leading into the break, the Senators (36-23-4) surged to the top of the Northeast Division standings. Now it's a matter of quickly regaining that momentum, with only 19 games remaining in the regular schedule.

"The break is always good," said veteran forward Alex Kovalev. "It helps you to energize and get ready for the final 19 games and the playoffs. It doesn't take long (to get back into it). But it definitely feels like it's time to come back on the ice again."

"The break is always good. It helps you to energize and get ready for the final 19 games and the playoffs. It doesn't take long (to get back into it). But it definitely feels like it's time to come back on the ice again." - Alex Kovalev
Added forward Ryan Shannon: "Things were going pretty well (before the break), to say the least. But at practice today, a lot of the guys were saying that their bodies weren't as sore and a lot of the little injuries they had have healed up. And guys have more energy now."

Clearly, this is a group that is enthused about its prospects in the weeks ahead. Thanks to a monster effort in January, the Senators have given themselves the opportunity to gain a high seed — and home-ice advantage — in the first round of the playoffs.

"We’ve put ourselves in a real good position and it’s pretty exciting now coming down the stretch," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "Everything’s geared toward the playoffs now and we’ve got to peak at the right time. This is a fun time of the year to play, though.

"We’ve kind of gotten rid of the dog days, so to speak — past the 40 to 60-game range — and now we can get things going for the playoffs. It’s a pretty exciting time of the year."

Around the boards

Rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson (shoulder) skated on his own today and Clouston is hopeful that "in the next day or two, he'll be able to join us for practice." That also means his return to game action is likely just around the corner ... There is also positive news regarding forward Nick Foligno (broken fibula), who Clouston said might be ready to make his return "in the next couple of weeks." ... Twelve of the Senators' remaining 19 games are on the road. "It's going to be another test for us," said Kovalev. "But we know where we are and what we're capable of — we just have to be ready for the test."


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