It’s been that kind of month

Given the run of the luck the Ottawa Senators have had lately, they’d best keep their distance from places like Atlantic City, just a two-hour jaunt south of their practice facility Sunday.

It’s been that kind of month
Toronto Maple Leafs' Tyler Bozak (centre) celebrates scoring his team's second goal against the Ottawa Senators during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, February 16, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

NEWARK, N.J. — Given the run of the luck the Ottawa Senators have had lately, they’d best keep their distance from places like Atlantic City, just a two-hour jaunt south of their practice facility Sunday.

As they hit the ice at the Prudential Center in Newark ahead of their Monday night game against the New Jersey Devils, the numbers they faced were as stark as they’ve been in a long time.

Another two months or so without star centre Jason Spezza. Another 33 games this season without Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Erik Karlsson. Two straight without winger Milan Michalek, with at least two more likely. A 3-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday to run their record to 2-5-1 this month, during which they’ve given up 17 goals and scored just 11.

Yes, February has been the hockey equivalent of rolling snake eyes.

And yet, bad luck was the reason the Senators were so upbeat Sunday afternoon, a scant 15 hours after Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens became the third backup to shut them out this season.

Coach Paul MacLean felt his team deserved a better fate against the Leafs, though he was clearly aware the execution was lacking.

“I think we had a number of really good opportunities,” he said after running his players through a half-hour practice. “We hit at least one crossbar that I know of, I think we had at least two or three two-on-ones where we didn’t get a shot on net.”

As such, the team did practice their two-on-ones with an old-school incentive to get it right: A missed net equalled on-ice pushups for the guilty party.

“We certainly felt we created enough scoring opportunities that game to be ahead 2-1 or, for sure, tied 1-1,” he continued. “For ourselves, we just have to bear down a little more and try to take advantage of those opportunities.”

The solution, as far as he was concerned, was to just stay the course. If the players do that, he suggested, it should keep the negative thoughts that can creep in during scoring droughts at bay.

“All these guys have scored goals at different levels and at this league at the same time, and we just have to keep doing what we’re doing. But we have to bear down.”

One player who has scored 35 goals in this league and had four in his first four games this season is Kyle Turris. Unfortunately for him, they remain the only four on his stat line so far. It’s been 11 contests — nearly a quarter of this shortened season — since he last found the back of the net Jan. 25 in Tampa Bay.

Turris didn’t seem concerned initially about the added pressure and defensive attention that came with becoming the de facto No. 1 centre following Spezza’s back surgery, but the ensuing slump is starting to wear on him.

“It’s, yeah, I mean any time you don’t score for any period time, let alone a long period of time, it’s very frustrating” he said. “You’ve just got to keep going and keep getting the opportunities and know that they’ll eventually go in and, once they do go in, it’ll be more than one to make up for the time missed.”

Turris echoed his coach’s assertion that the Senators were already on the right track with their style of play, however.

He’ll have plenty of opportunities to break through this week with four games, including three at home. The busy schedule meant a day off for Daniel Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar Sunday, though they’ll be ready to suit up against the Devils.

Monday will serve as a rest day for Craig Anderson, who cedes his spot between the pipes to Ben Bishop. Bishop was good in a 1-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets two Saturdays ago.

And more help could be on the way. Peter Regin was back skating with his teammates after suffering a chest injury and could be in the lineup against the Devils as well.

He was keen to get back as quickly as possible and start contributing, given the team’s inability to find the back of the net lately.

“It’s sad with all the injuries, and we do need some offensive guys, so it’s a great opportunity for a guy like myself to kind of prove that I still can put up a little bit of points,” he said.

“I’ve had a tough couple years (due to injury), but I still think I can be the player I was a couple years ago, so that’s what I’m working toward, and this is a great opportunity for that.”

And the role of bad luck wasn’t lost on a player who has seen more than his fair share of it in the NHL.

“Erik’s thing, it’s nothing you can train towards (preventing) … mine, it’s a small thing where sometimes you get hit from the wrong angle,” he said. “It’s nothing you can really do about it. Spezz, he’s had a bad back for eight years, so it’s (bad) luck too.

“I don’t think it’s because of the lockout, I don’t think it’s because we haven’t prepared well, it’s just being unlucky.”

Perhaps, along with Kevlar socks, horseshoes should be standard issue equipment for the next little while.

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