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Senators seeking 'fresh start' against Kings

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Veteran blueliner David Hale rejoins the Senators lineup tonight, with Erik Karlsson being given a night off against the Los Angeles Kings at Scotiabank Place. It's the first of four games this week for Ottawa, which is aiming to dig out of a three-game losing skid starting this evening   (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Check out the NHL game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Los Angeles matchup.

For the Ottawa Senators, it isn't just the start of a new work week.

It's just like starting over.

The Senators see tonight's matchup with the Los Angeles Kings at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200) as an opportunity to escape the funk that gripped them so tightly in the last week. While the tragedy involving the family of assistant coach Luke Richardson weighed on them heavily, the Senators want to turn the page on their performances on the ice — road losses to the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and St. Louis by a combined 17-4 score.

"We think that when we play our game, we’re a solid, strong, structured team," head coach Cory Clouston said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "It’s when we get off track that we get ourselves into trouble. Last week was a very difficult week for us. We’re hoping to look at (tonight's game) as a fresh start."

With that thought in mind, Clouston has shuffled the deck on his line combinations in the hope of juicing up the team's attack. Chris Kelly has been moved up to the top line alongside captain Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, while Peter Regin will centre Milan Michalek and Alex Kovalev. The other two combinations: Nick Foligno-Mike Fisher-Ryan Shannon and Jarkko Ruutu-Jesse Winchester-Chris Neil.

"You need a bit of a refresh when you lose the way we've lost the last few games," Spezza said when asked about the changes up front. "Sometimes playing different guys with different guys can get (players) energized."

The blue line isn't going untouched, either. Clouston is giving Erik Karlsson a night off, with veteran David Hale being inserted into the lineup. Karlsson has been suffering from flu-like symptoms, but Clouston suggested there was more to the change than just illness.

"(Karlsson) was definitely sick yesterday," said Clouston. "But it's also a perfect time for him to step back and kind of refocus and get his game back on track as well."

Hale is being counted upon to bring his steady defensive game to the fray tonight against a Kings team (13-6-0) that has ranked among the Western Conference's best all season.

"We think that when we play our game, we’re a solid, strong, structured team. It’s when we get off track that we get ourselves into trouble. Last week was a very difficult week for us. We’re hoping to look at (tonight's game) as a fresh start." - Cory Clouston
"I'm just coming in and playing my game, playing solid and consistent," said Hale, a healthy scratch throughout the just completed four-game road trip. "Just basically showing what I can do to stay here. I was out for four games and it's not fun sitting up there watching, especially when you feel like you can do something. Hopefully, I get in tonight and I can help out."

Before last week, the Senators were riding a 7-3-0 wave and seemed to have turned the corner after a slow season start. But as Alfredsson pointed out, such ups and downs are a fact of life in today's National Hockey League.

"The last few years, it’s been streaks both ways (for us)," he said. "You’ve just got to try to keep the losing streaks as short as possible and the winning streaks as long (as you can). All teams go through that during the year. It’s easy to let the bad games get to you quick and the good games … it’s what you’re supposed to do. Everybody thinks they’re going to win every night in this league. We’ve just to keep believing in the process and keep working."

Around the boards

Pascal Leclaire makes the start in goal tonight, his first since Nov. 11 ... It will be a night of milestones at Scotiabank Place this evening, with both Neil and Ruutu playing their 600th NHL games and Michalek suiting up for his 400th. Kovalev could add to the fun by recording a point against the Kings — he's one shy of the 1,000 plateau for his career ... It's a busy week for the Senators, who are home to the Dallas Stars on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200), face the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday (1 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) and then tangle with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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