OTTAWA – The goals have dried up and the losses are piling up, but the Ottawa Senators are refusing to panic.
Mired in a six-game losing streak and barely holding on to a playoff spot, the Senators (21-21-7) spoke with confidence about their ability to turn things around on Monday after a troubling 5-0 loss to rival Toronto over the weekend.
“We think we have what it takes to turn this around obviously,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “We know it’s not going to be easy, but it’s a challenge and we look forward to it.”
With Toronto’s 6-3 win over Edmonton on Monday, the Senators slipped to eighth place in the Eastern Conference. But despite the losing streak, the Senators remain a playoff contender thanks in part to their surprising first half of the season.
“We put ourselves in a good spot and I don’t think there’s any reason to panic,” said forward Nick Foligno. “We’ve worked hard to get where we are and we’re still in a good position and we know we need to win games, but we still feel like we’re right there and we can tweak things just a bit and we’ll be playing winning hockey again.”
The Senators have struggled offensively over the course of their losing streak. They were shutout against the Maple Leafs on Saturday and were held to just one goal in three of the other games.
Ottawa’s top three scorers have been mostly silent. Milan Michalek doesn’t have a point in his last seven games, Jason Spezza has been held pointless in his last six and Alfredsson has two goals and one assist in his last six.
With the big guns quiet, the Senators’ supporting cast hasn’t stepped up to make up for the offensive shortage. Nick Foligno, Zack Smith, Colin Greening and Erik Condra are all struggling, and even young all-star defenceman Erik Karlsson, with just one goal and two assists, isn’t contributing as much.
It came as no surprise that Monday’s practice featured work on driving to the net and getting pucks on the net.
“We believe in our abilities and know that the goals are going to come,” Foligno said. “It’s just a matter of doing the little things right now whether it’s getting to the net or getting more shots on net. Once you do that I think you’re going to see goals go in and it’s just a matter of breaking through that barrier.”
Jason Spezza says the Senators are probably “squeezing the sticks” a little bit right now and need to get back to basics.
“It’s nice to have a foundation that we’ve created that we can fall back on and that we feel comfortable with,” Spezza said. “Everybody feels that the way we play the game translates well into good, competitive close hockey games.
“We’ve built that foundation to fall back onto and this is when you use it, when you’re going through a losing streak. You go back to the things that got you the wins earlier on.”
The Senators are back in action Tuesday night as they host the St. Louis Blues and while, Paul MacLean didn’t name his starting goaltender he also seemed a little annoyed when asked if Craig Anderson was in need of a break.
Anderson has started the last 17 games and has already played 50, the most of any goaltender in the league.
“I’m not worried,” MacLean said. “Some goalies have played a little over 70 games lots of time and Craig’s done it before so we’re not worried about him.”
Notes: D Brian Lee has been cleared to play after missing the last ten games with a lower body injury…It appears Jesse Winchester has suffered a setback in his recovery from a concussion as he did not skate with the team and MacLean said he took that as a sign of a setback.