|Captain Daniel Alfredsson and the Senators are anxious to dig out of the rut they've been stuck in since the end of the Olympic break (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images).
If there is a growing sense of urgency in the Ottawa Senators dressing room, that's fine by them.
But panic? Not yet, say the Senators, even in the wake of Saturday's 5-1 loss in Vancouver that dropped the team's record to 1-4-1 since the Olympic break. What once seemed a comfortable grip on fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings is dwindling by the day, with the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens now having crept to within three points.
Ottawa has also slipped three points behind the Buffalo Sabres in the race for top spot in the Northeast Division, with the latter also holding two games in hand.
Still, Senators head coach Cory Clouston suggested today that it's nothing that can't be fixed by a return to the attitude the team showed during its franchise-record 11-game winning streak before the Olympics.
"We just have to play a little bit more urgent," Clouston said following the Senators' practice earlier today at the Bell Sensplex. "(Before the break), we were playing like we had something to lose and we built up such — I don’t want to say a big cushion for playoffs — but we relaxed a little bit. We’ve got to start treating these games like playoff games and we discussed that this morning.
"Nobody is panicking right now. We know we’re a good team and we’ve just got to get back to playing our game. To me, there’s a big difference between some urgency and panic, and we’ve just got to play with a little more urgency."
Captain Daniel Alfredsson
seconded that notion, saying "it's such a fine line" between urgency and that feeling of a job already well done. He also noted that just about every team in the National Hockey League goes through highs and lows over the course of a season.
"We’ve just got to stay with it," he said. "If you look throughout the season, a lot of teams go through streaks, ups and downs. It’s so competitive and if you do well, you expect to win every game. And if you don’t, it’s ‘what’s wrong, what’s wrong?’ So you’ve got to stay positive. We know we can keep the game a little bit simpler."
The Senators have also struggled to score goals through their current skid. They've only scored eight since the break and four of those came in their lone victory, over the Edmonton Oilers.
"We’ve tried to do too much," said forward Alex Kovalev. "We have to simplify our game. I think the most important thing is we have to believe in the things we do out on the ice. We’re just not confident with the puck. Every time we get the puck, we’re throwing it somewhere without looking and making bad passes. It comes down to not trusting yourself and not being confident."
"We’ve just got to stay with it. If you look throughout the season, a lot of teams go through streaks, ups and downs. It’s so competitive and if you do well, you expect to win every game. And if you don’t, it’s ‘what’s wrong, what’s wrong?’ So you’ve got to stay positive. We know we can keep the game a little bit simpler." - Daniel Alfredsson
Help could be on the way Tuesday, when the Senators face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Forward Nick Foligno
and defenceman Chris Campoli skated with the team in practice today and both could make their return to the lineup against the Leafs.
"It was good to be back out with the guys," said Foligno, who's been sidelined since Feb. 1 with a broken right fibula. "It’s been a long six weeks. It’s actually flown by a little bit with the Olympic break, but it’s been tough not to be with them, especially down the stretch drive.
"I’m happy it healed quickly and it gives me a chance to come back sooner rather than later."
Campoli, sidelined since before the break with a knee injury, also sounded positive today.
"I feel good," he said. "(Playing) tomorrow is a possibility, depending on how I react. It's tough to sit back and watch, especially when things haven't gone well as of late. But I'm not much help unless I'm ready to go. We'll see how I feel tomorrow."Around the boards
Defenceman Filip Kuba
(lower body) skated on his own before practice today, but Clouston said "he's a ways away. He didn't join the practice today, so it's going to be a few more days (yet)." ... Centre Mike Fisher left practice early today but there was no further word on his status … Binghamton Senators forward Josh Hennessy, who racked up nine points in four games — including a pair of game-winning goals — has been named the Reebok/AHL player of the week for the period ending Sunday ... Fewer than 50 tickets remain for Tuesday's game against the Leafs, the last meeting between the two Ontario rivals this season.