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Ottawa Senators look to reverse fortunes during three-game homestand

OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators think it's about time to pull out of an early season slide.

With just one win in their first five games, Ottawa is facing a week that includes three games on home ice at Scotiabank Place. They host Philadelphia on Tuesday, Winnipeg on Thursday and Columbus on Saturday.

"You look at our record and we need to start getting some points," said veteran defenceman Chris Phillips. "We made some good strides last game. I thought we played well and maybe deserved better, but it's about results and we need to get up there in the standings."

Other than an ugly 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the Senators have managed to keep games close. They believe improvement will come with a more consistent effort from start to finish.

The Senators have struggled early in games, getting outscored 15-3 overall in the first and second periods.

While it's tempting to chalk up Ottawa's struggles to the number of new faces in the lineup, Phillips doesn't believe it's that simple.

"We're not going to use that as an excuse," he said. "We have the talent, the guys are capable and everyone's shown their ability and that's why we're all here. It is a little adjustment playing with different guys and what not, but we're all familiar with the system and we know what's expected of us and we have to go out and get the results we're looking for."

Senators coach Paul MacLean has been juggling lines and even resorted to reuniting Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson in Washington Saturday in hopes they could create some much needed offense.

So far, the only line showing any kind of consistency is Nick Foligno, Peter Regin and Chris Neil.

"Right now they're an NHL line with three parts and we can put them on the ice and play them against anybody," said MacLean. "That makes it very comforting as a coach that you know you can put a line on anywhere on the ice against anybody and you know they're going to give you a good shift."

If the Senators fortunes are to improve they're going to need some of their younger players to contribute offensively, including Mika Zibanejad, who has just a few more games to prove he belongs in the NHL.

Zibanejad has played all five games, which gives the team four more to decide whether to send him back to Sweden or keep him for the entire season.

"I think Mika can play in the NHL," said MacLean. "It's whether or not we decide it's going to be right now for the rest of the year or next year."

MacLean admits the final decision hasn't been made, but it's likely his performance this week will play a huge factor in Zibanejad's future.

"We just expect him to be a good player every day and work at his game every day and he's done that."

With a game every other day the Senators have little time to practice, but Foligno believes the coaching staff has implemented a system that allows everyone to be prepared.

"We need to come ready to play," said Foligno. "I think that's the biggest thing. Stick within our structure and the structure will allow us to play a full 60 minutes the right way and then we'll see where the goals come from and how we're going to win these games."

Notes: Sergei Gonchar missed practice due to a bruised foot and isn't expected to play Tuesday night ... Craig Anderson missed practice for personal reasons ... Alex Auld will get the start in goal against Philadelphia ... Winger Bobby Butler's groin injury looks like it might be more serious than originally expected. He isn't likely to return to the lineup this week.



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