OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators are looking to make some changes even though they appear to be on an upswing.
The 3-2-2 Senators are riding a modest two-game winning streak, but a lack of discipline continues to be an issue for head coach Paul MacLean and his team.
“It should be something that can be handled between the coaching staff and the players, but ultimately the players end up dealing with it and they get it sorted out,” said MacLean. “So that’s the expectation is that the players will take care of it.”
The Senators have been short-handed a league high 38 times—tied with the Philadelphia Flyers entering Friday’s games—and have allowed a power-play goal in all but two of their seven games.
The majority of the penalties called against Ottawa have been for hooking and tripping. The Senators recognize they need to make better decisions on the ice.
“Myself included, I think we just need to be a little more accountable,” said forward Bobby Ryan. “Sometimes I think it might be over-working, but at the same time you just have to commit yourself to the extra stride or whatever it is and we’ve got to find ways to get around it.”
Senators captain Jason Spezza added: “It’s almost as simple as stay out of the penalty box.”
In Thursday’s 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, the Senators jumped out to an early 2-0 lead but went on to take four minor penalties before the first period was over.
“(Killing penalties) takes a lot of guys out of the game,” said Spezza. “There’s lots of consequences to taking penalties. Bobby (Ryan) doesn’t kill penalties here so we want him on the ice as much as we can. For a team as a whole it’s better to take two, three penalties a game. You can’t survive with six, seven.”
A consequence of having to play short-handed has been that the Senators lead the league in shots against, averaging 42 shots per game. Twice this year they have allowed 50 or more.
Ottawa has given up a total of 252 shots and 67 of those have been while killing penalties. With those numbers it was no surprise to see the Senators working on their penalty kill Friday morning.
“This is the first time that we’ve made it a real focus of the day,” said MacLean. “This is what we have to do. If it continues from this point forward then it becomes a concern, but not a frustration.
“The amount of penalties we take certainly leads to us playing in our end too much and them getting shots at our net and that’s never a good recipe. There’s no chance of success if that continues to happen.”
In addition, the penalty killers are impacted by the extra work.
“When the second and third period rolls around and you’ve already killed six penalties it certainly takes a toll on your body,” said defenceman Marc Methot. “It’s something that we’ve got to cut out because we’re going to burn out pretty fast if we keep going at this rate.”
In addition, the players who don’t kill penalties are sitting on the bench for extended periods of time.
“You might be sitting on the bench for two, three minutes and then your legs become a little bit stiff and then you’re back on the ice,” said forward Colin Greening. “Taking penalties can make it just as challenging for those guys that don’t kill penalties.”
The Senators host the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon. MacLean said the challenge will be in containing the Oilers’ offensive talent.
“They’re a team with some real young, explosive type players and there’s a possibility of (six and seven goals being scored) and we have to make sure we’re here ready to play.”
Notes: Goalie Robin Lehner will get the start Saturday against Edmonton. … Defenceman Erik Karlsson was given the day off Friday, but will play Saturday afternoon. … Centre Stephane DaCosta cleared waivers and will report to AHL Binghamton. The Senators also recalled forward Derek Grant from Binghamton. … Spezza and Karlsson made Vanity Fair’s Top 10 list of best dressed players in the NHL.