He’s the National Hockey League’s leading scorer and a prime Hart Trophy candidate.
But don’t expect Vincent Lecavalier to be foremost in Ottawa Senators head coach John Paddock’s thoughts as he looks toward Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).
Paddock is much more concerned – and rightly so – about his own house. Most specifically, the Senators’ six-game losing streak that has all but erased the healthy cushion they’d built in the Eastern Conference standings with a 15-2-0 season start.
“We’ve lost the edge in the standings we had,” Paddock said before the team’s workout Monday afternoon in Tampa, Fla., where the Senators will play the first of five straight road games. “We haven’t won in six games. We need to win some hockey games … whether that’s 2-1 or 7-6, we need to win.
“That’s the most important thing at this very moment.”
The Senators’ last outing – a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place on Saturday night – added to the urgency of the situation. After watching a tape of the first period of that game, during which the Blueshirts raced out to a 3-0 lead, Paddock declared: “I don’t think we could play any worse.”
“We never won any one-on-one battles in the first period,” he said. “It’s not a technical or tactical thing now. It’s (about) the ability you have that allows you to play in the National Hockey League to do something with the puck, and have enough desire to win 50 per cent of the one-on-one battles, wherever they are.”
It’s something Paddock believes must change if the Senators are to bust out of their skid by zapping the Bolts.
“I’m always worried about Vinny (Lecavalier),” said Paddock. “But we’ve got to do some things with the puck and make some plays. We’ve got to get the puck out of our zone cleanly. We’ve got to get a little bit of forechecking going.
“We’ve all got to be better, no question … we better be a lot more competitive (against the Lightning). By that, I mean (winning) the one-on-one battles. We’ve got to battle to get the puck, and then we’ve got to do something with it.”
Paddock will give Ray Emery his sixth start of the season in goal. Emery relieved starter Martin Gerber on Saturday and allowed one goal over the final two periods.
“Gerbs is just like our team,” said Paddock. “(When) we were very sharp, he was very sharp. We won all the time. And with all that, he deserved another opportunity (Saturday) after a bad game (Thursday, a 6-5 shootout loss to Nashville).
“I think Ray’s game has been average to middle when he’s played, and now he’s going to get a little bit more of a chance and he’s got to make the most of it.”