On the bright side, the Ottawa Senators have never lost at the Prudential Center.
And the Senators are looking to ride that positive wave as they head into the New Jersey Devils’ new arena in Newark on Wednesday night (7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200) for their second game in as many nights.
After an optional pre-game skate, head coach John Paddock made it clear that a repeat of the Senators’ performance in a 5-1 home-ice loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night won’t get it done against the disciplined Devils, who stand six points behind Ottawa in the Eastern Conference standings.
“There was not a preparation to play,” Paddock said in reference to the humbling loss to the Sabres, which marked the debut of forward Cory Stillman and defenceman Mike Commodore in the Senators lineup. “It’s easy to say we got outworked. But sometimes, we just worked blind because we were not in position or we’d have to hurry back to get to (the right) position.
“We were so totally unsharp… it was a totally mystifying game.”
Paddock said much of the solution to those woes lies in the neutral zone, an area the Sabres controlled on Tuesday night. It was a 180-degree turnaround from Saturday night’s impressive 6-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
“Montreal’s a great neutral-zone team and we had no problems (Saturday) night because we were back, we were in position, we moved the puck and we went through,” he said. “It’s just a matter of playing the game right.”
Keeping with his current “win-and-you-stay in” rotation for his goaltenders, Paddock named Martin Gerber (23-10-2) the starter for tonight’s game. Back on Oct. 27, Gerber turned aside 31 shots as the Senators recorded a 4-1 victory on opening night at the Prudential Center. He is 3-0-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average in his last four games against the Devils.
But Paddock credited Ray Emery with a solid performance on Tuesday night, calling him “our best player” in that game.
Tonight’s game is the first of a back-to-back mini-series between the teams. They play again Saturday at Scotiabank Place, the first of three straight at home for the Senators.
Fewer than 50 tickets remain for the game. Around the boards
Forward Cody Bass remains sidelined with what is being called “skate bite,” in which the laces cut into the skin on a player’s foot. “You would think that today, with the technology we have, that it would never happen, but it's because of the skate he used at one time," said Paddock. "This didn't just happen (in the NHL) or anything. This has been for quite awhile, maybe even (since playing) junior hockey. It didn't heal right. He fights through it for six or eight months and it becomes worse and worse.” … Chris Neil
recorded the first goal in Prudential Center history, 5:01 into the opening period of the Senators’ win on Oct. 27. Andrej Meszaros and Jason Spezza
drew the assists … About 1,000 tickets remain for the Philadelphia Flyers’ visit to Scotiabank Place on Feb. 19. Around 1,500 are left for the Feb. 21 home matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets.