|Despite their playoff hopes now being "a longshot," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson believes he and his teammates will push hard to stay competitive to the finish (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
On a frosty winter Sunday, it was business as usual for the Ottawa Senators.
Head coach Cory Clouston put his team through a brisk practice at the Bell Sensplex with an eye toward heading off to the all-star break with a victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
At this point in time, it's a one game at a time approach for a team that has gone 1-8-3 in its last 12 outings and now sits 14 points beyond a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Discouraging losses to the Philadelphia Flyers (6-2) and Montreal Canadiens (7-1) to close out last week fuelled speculation that some sort of change was imminent.
However, in an interview with the Ottawa Sun
on Saturday, team owner Eugene Melnyk cleared the air by insisting that Clouston and general manager Bryan Murray will continue to guide the team to the end of the season. Now, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
said, it's up to the team to stay the course and do what's necessary to reverse the tide.
"We've had a long stretch here where we haven't gotten enough points and even though we've been playing some games, (the uncertainty) wears on your confidence and the morale of the team and everybody," said Alfredsson. "Then the speculation comes in and you don't know what's going to happen. I'm sure it's had an effect on us as a group
"But we're going to come to work every day. We have to get better in certain areas, right the ship and get going in the right direction."
Clouston, who has born the brunt of the speculation, has remained steadfast in saying "my perspective and goal hasn't changed" in terms of what he brings to the rink every day.
"We're trying to win our next game," he said. "I still look at it, from a coaching perspective, that we're going to try to make sure our guys are as prepared as they possible can be to win the next game. That's how we have to approach it, as a day-by-day and game-by-game situation and try to put some wins together."
Even though their playoff chances have dimmed considerably during a skid that stretches back to Boxing Day, Alfredsson doesn't doubt that he and his teammates will continue to work hard and stay motivated.
"We're pro athletes," he said. "You don't get to this level if you're not very competitive. Even if it's a longshot for us to make the playoffs, it's (still) about going out there and trying to win every game you play and trying to get better at every practice.
"The motivation for us is still that we want to show ourselves and our fans that we're not just happy with where we are. We feel we're underachieving and we want to get back to playing the way we're capable of (playing)."