OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators would love to remember what it’s like to play with a lead.
The Senators have yet to lead in a game or the series through the first four games against the New York Rangers.
Considering the series is tied 2-2 the Sens have obviously been doing something right, but they admit it might be nice to know what it’s like to play with a lead.
“In the playoffs that’s what you want because it makes the other team try to take chances,” said Nick Foligno. “It would be big for us to get the lead and it’s something we’re focusing on or trying to do, but sometimes the playoffs don’t go that way and you have to find ways to battle back and we did that last game and it says a lot about the guys on this team.”
Ottawa tied the series Wednesday night scoring three unanswered goals, including the game winner after trailing 2-0 in the first period.
While the Senators feel confident in their ability to rally, they realize that playing with a lead could make a big difference for them Saturday night. Scoring first could help take the crowd out of the game at Madison Square Garden, not to mention throw the Rangers off their game.
“This is a huge game and they all have been, but this is the next one that we have to get,” said Foligno. “I think the guys understand the significance of it so we’re going to go in there and do our best to try and get that lead and hopefully play it the whole way.”
If the regular season was any indication, Ottawa is a better team when it has the lead.
The team had a 12-18-2 record when trailing after the first period and was 7-27-1 when trailing after two, but was 23-2-2 when leading after two.
“We have to get a lead sometime and I think it would help quite a bit,” said defenceman Jared Cowen. “I think it might give us a little confidence and just settle us down because when we settle down we play our game and that’s what we need right now.”
Jason Spezza would love to be the guy to finally give the Senators a lead. Spezza has played well throughout the series, but with just two assists through four games a goal would be a bit of a relief for the 28-year-old.
“Obviously I would like to be on the scoreboard, but as long as we’re winning games I’m happy,” said Spezza. “If my role in this series is to draw some attention from them and tire out their guys and play kind of a grinding style of game I have no trouble playing that.
“If you would have talked to me a few years ago and I’d have no goals after four games in the playoffs I would be pretty rattled, but now I can see the bigger picture … If I can start scoring offensively that would give us a big boost too, but I feel like I’m playing good hockey without scoring right now and if I add some goals it’s only going to help our team.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean has no problems with Spezza’s overall game, but would like to see him make some minor adjustments.
“The one thing we’d like to see him do is to shoot the puck with more opportunities when he has them as opposed to looking for passing options,” said MacLean. “Coming over the blue-line we’d rather see him look for the shooting opportunity first.”
Spezza has nine shots through the first four games, but didn’t register a single shot on goal in Wednesday’s game. Camera’s caught MacLean showing Spezza the score sheet prior to Kyle Turris scoring the overtime winner.
“It was more of a reminder,” said Spezza. “He likes me to shoot the puck a little more than I do at times and at the time he’d like me to hit the puck a little more.”
The team will rely on Spezza more with captain Daniel Alfredsson out of the lineup. Alfredsson has been out since taking an elbow in Game 2 from Carl Hagelin, who will serve the last of his three-game suspension Saturday.
“He’s unchanged,” MacLean said of Alfredsson’s status before the team flew to New York. “And no, he’s not travelling with us.”
Notes: Jesse Winchester did not practise Friday, but Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman took turns playing with Foligno and Turris. Both could earn consideration to draw into the lineup or the Senators could opt for Kaspars Daugavins or Rob Klinkhammer. “We have multiple personnel at this point,” said MacLean. “We’re going to keep all those options open.” … Jakob Silfverberg is making his way to Ottawa. After winning the Swedish championship with Brynas Thursday, the Senators top prospect chose to pass up an opportunity to play for Sweden at the world championships and join the Senators.