They’ve got a well-earned break staring them right in the face.
And the Ottawa Senators know what they want most of all to make it an enjoyable three-day retreat to cottage country starting Sunday.
“We just have to focus on playing the way we know we can and the way we’ve been playing recently,” centre Mike Fisher said with an eye toward Saturday’s matchup with the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). “We’re having fun doing it and after that (game), we can worry about our time off.”
|Ray Emery is still waiting to make his first start of the season, but whether it'll happen Saturday against the Florida Panthers remains a secret. |
Head coach John Paddock admitted last week he has concerns about how his hot team will handle the next two weeks. After Saturday’s game, the Senators won’t play again for a week, travelling to New Jersey on Oct. 27 for the grand-opening game at the Devils’ new Prudential Center in Newark. After that, it’s another four days off before the Atlanta Thrashers come to the capital on Nov. 1.
An eighth victory on Saturday would go a long way toward keeping everyone in a positive frame of mind during the relatively blank schedule that follows. They’ll spend three days after the Panthers in game in the Muskokas region of central Ontario, an area popular with summer vacationers.
“We’ll emphasize the point that this has been a real good start and stretch, and we really don’t want to have a week off with a sour taste in our mouths,” said Paddock. “So let’s put our best foot forward here (against Florida).”
Added Fisher: “We’ve got to have a good game (Saturday) because we’ve got a light schedule and some time off coming up … We’ve got to make sure we stay on top of our game. Sometimes, when you don’t have games, you get into practice mode and can mentally kind of lose it.
“We came out strong (Thursday, in a 4-3 win over Montreal) and that’s what we want to do again (Saturday). We want to set ourselves up for a fun break.”
The Senators’ penalty-killing unit will likely be missing one of its key components against the Panthers. Paddock said Antoine Vermette, who was forced out of Thursday’s game by back spasms, "probably won't play" against the Panthers.
Paddock called on the likes of Shean Donovan, Dany Heatley and Christoph Schubert to fill the penalty-killing void against the Habs and said he’ll likely choose from that group and perhaps Patrick Eaves on Saturday night.
Donovan said he’s up for the added challenge.
“I’ve usually filled in penalty killing everywhere I’ve been (in the NHL),” he said. “There’s a good kill here so whenever you fill in, it’s good fun.”
What will remain under wraps, at least until Saturday’s game-day morning skate, is the identity of the Senators’ starting goaltender. Paddock wouldn’t budge on the subject Friday, and both Martin Gerber and Ray Emery weren’t saying, either.
“I’m just waiting to see when they want me in there,” said Emery, who’s itching to make his first start of the season after recovering from off-season wrist surgery. “I’m sure I’ll get a game in the next week or two. Whenever it is, I’ll be ready.”
In one roster move announced Friday, the Senators assigned defenceman Matt Carkner
to their American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y., but he must first clear waivers on Monday.
Less than 350 tickets remain for Saturday’s game.