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Svatos aiming to rediscover his goal-den touch

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Winger Marek Svatos has yet to record a point since joining the Senators 10 games ago, a situation he hopes to remedy starting tonight against the New Jersey Devils  (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images).

Cory Clouston has seen the best of what Marek Svatos can deliver.

Perhaps nobody in Ottawa Senators colours, then, is better equipped to judge the offensive struggles the Slovak winger has been enduring since being claimed off waivers from the Nashville Predators last month. Since then, Svatos has yet to record a point in 10 games, a clear source of frustration for a guy used to finding the back of the net.

"I’m getting some opportunities every night and some chances I don’t want to miss, but I (haven't been) able to put the puck in the net," Svatos said in advance of tonight's matchup with the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "It’s been a mental game for me, so I’ve got to be a little more loose and bury the chances that I’m getting "

Clouston surely knows he's got the scorer's touch. During two years behind the bench with the Western Hockey League's Kootenay Ice, he watched Svatos rack up 61 goals. When the Senators grabbed him off the waiver wire, Clouston lauded that nose for the net, saying "I don't think I've ever coached a guy who liked to score more. He absolutely just loves to score."

All of which makes it obvious to Clouston that Svatos, who produced 32 goals in 61 games for the Colorado Avalanche as a rookie in 2005-06 and followed it up with three more seasons of double-digit production, isn't his usual self.

"He’s not scoring and he’s putting a little bit of pressure on himself," said Clouston. "I’ve seen him at a younger age but I’ve also seen him at this level be a very good goal scorer. But right now, he’s squeezing the stick. He has two or three chances a game and he just hasn’t pulled the trigger. He’s missed the net a couple of times, he’s fanned on shots and a couple times, he hasn’t gotten the quality shot that he would like to (have)."

Clouston added the Senators winger "isn't 100 per cent healthy now," but Svatos won't use that as an excuse for a his lack of production.

"It comes down to skill and me finding a little bit of a break. Hopefully, the puck will find the back of the net (soon)," he said. "Part of it is confidence. I’m getting the chances, but it’s frustrating that they’re not going in. Every player (at some point) loses their confidence and it’s a tough thing to get back."

"I’m getting some opportunities every night and some chances I don’t want to miss, but I (haven't been) able to put the puck in the net. It’s been a mental game for me, so I’ve got to be a little more loose and bury the chances that I’m getting " - Marek Svatos
Svatos acknowledges his career is at stake at the moment. He started the season with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League before the St. Louis Blues offered him a contract just before Christmas. The Predators snared him off National Hockey League re-entry waivers and he produced a goal and two assists in nine games in the Music City before the Senators brought him on board.

"I'm under a little bit of pressure," he said. "When I came here, I wanted to do my best to show everybody that I can still play in this league. And I'm still trying (to do that). I'm trying to work hard every game and, hopefully, the goals are going to come, too."

Meanwhile, the Senators are hoping to duplicate the same kind of effort that led to a 2-1 victory last week in Newark, N.J. The Devils have lost only three games in regulation since January in a remarkable run that has pushed them to the edge of an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

"We want to play them the same way we played in New Jersey — that's probably the best way to beat them," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "You're not going to get a lot of chances and you have to capitalize on your chances. We got a timely goal at the end of the game (last week) and we hope to do the same again, just try to stick with them and score a goal at the right time.

"It's good to know that we can beat them, but we know it's going to be tough. We know their record (lately) and we know how well they've played, even after we beat them. There's a lot of reason for us to be ready tonight."

Around the boards

With Craig Anderson ailing, the Senators will turn to Curtis McElhinney as their goaltending starter tonight. Clouston described Anderson's lower-body injury as "a little bit of an aggravation," but said he should be on the ice for practice Friday. "If we had to play him, he'd be ready tonight, but we don't want to risk anything," said Clouston ... Forward Roman Wick and veteran defenceman David Hale have been summoned from the Binghamton Senators for tonight's game. Hale, ironically, makes his return to Ottawa for the first time since Dec. 3 against the team that drafted him into the NHL in 2000. Not that he'll see too many familiar faces tonight. "There's been a lot of changeover since I've been there," Hale said of his days with the Devils. "Maybe a handful or less of guys I played with are still there." ... Wick scored both goals for the B-Sens in their 5-2 road loss to the Adirondack Phantoms on Wednesday night .. The Senators wrap up a three-game homestand Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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