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Work gets tougher for Sens

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
It was back to work for the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

Work being the operative word for head coach Craig Hartsburg, who maintained again today that he didn't see anywhere near enough of it in the third period of Tuesday's disappointing 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Place.

The 13th-place Senators (16-22-7) saw the gap between them and the eighth playoff position in the Eastern Conference — now held by the Florida Panthers — grow to 13 points. Owner Eugene Melnyk declared earlier today that his team is "at a crossroads" and needs to get moving now to secure a post-season berth for a 12th straight season.

"The excuses are over," he said. "We are down to the stretch run. This is the time it's either going to happen or it's not."

Hartsburg knows very little is possible without 60 minutes of consistent work each night. He believes he saw it for the first two periods against the Devils before his team faltered in the third.

"The work part, the battle part and the compete part was really unacceptable in the third period," said Hartsburg. "That's our problem. It's been our problem all year, the consistency part of our game. Where it always starts to unravel is with the battle, compete and work part of it. The structure in your game can't hold if you don't work.

"When you start losing battles — and to me, that's an individual part of the game — then it seems like your whole game falls apart. It's very disturbing that we cannot consistently work for 60 minutes."

"We just have to look at ourselves in the mirror. We know we have to work harder and make our own breaks. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win but if we’re not going to do that, it’s going to be few and far between." - Brian Elliott
It was a stark turnabout for a team that entered the National Hockey League all-star break on a 3-0-1 roll and feeling good about its game. Even a day later, centre Mike Fisher, for one, struggled to explain the 180-degree turnabout.

"I'm not really sure," he said. "There's no excuse. It's a big game and we know we need to win ... Any time there's a big game and you don't respond, it's not good. It's human nature to question things. Regardless, we've got to work to make sure it doesn't happen again and get hungry and get excited."

Now it'll have to happen on the road, where the Senators will play three games in four days starting with Thursday night's matchup with the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center (8:30 p.m., NHL Network, Team 1200).

"We just have to look at ourselves in the mirror," said goaltender Brian Elliott. "We know we have to work harder and make our own breaks. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win but if we’re not going to do that, it’s going to be few and far between. That’s all we have to do."

Around the boards

Elliott (3-2-1) is scheduled to make his seventh straight start tomorrow night, while Alex Auld moves between the pipes on Friday in Columbus, when the Senators take on the Blue Jackets (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) ... Centre Dean McAmmond missed today's practice because of illness but Hartsburg wouldn't yet rule him out for the beginning of the road trip. "We'll see how he is tomorrow," said Hartsburg ... The Senators close out their mini-road trip on Super Bowl Sunday in Washington against Alex Ovechkin and the Atlantic Division-leading Capitals (12:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) ... Rookie Peter Regin, who went an impressive 7-0 in the faceoff circle against the Devils, joined the Sens on their charter for his first NHL road trip. "It's exciting," the Danish centre said. "I'm looking forward to it."

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