Ottawa Senators at Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 7, 2010

The Ottawa Senators have had a long time to think about the 5-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday that has the city buzzing about a possible shakeup.

Ottawa Senators at Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 7, 2010
Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators scores during the shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators have had a long time to think about the 5-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday that has the city buzzing about a possible shakeup. There are certainly softer spots in the schedule to start what would be a miracle drive to a playoff spot: After facing the defending Stanley Cup champs in Chicago tonight, they face the Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday and the team at the top of the Northeast, Boston, on Tuesday.

THE SUBPLOTS: All of which means Senators coach Cory Clouston’s time at the helm is coming to a close. Asked earlier this week if he would give the bench boss a vote of confidence, general manager Bryan Murray was refereshingly honest. He said he didn’t know if Clouston would be the coach at the end of the season and that he’d be watching the next few games closely. The players haven’t shown a willingness to play for this coach, however, so why start now?

THE WILDCARD: Brian Elliott, Senators. The Ottawa netminder, like the team, has struggled mightily to find consistency this season. On some nights, he’s as effective as a steel wall. On others, he looks like he doesn’t belong in the league. Elliott was one of the main reasons this group, which has changed little since, made the playoffs last season. The Senators need him to be better.

THE OPPONENT: The Blackhawks, who have changed plenty since winning the Stanley Cup last June, are facing the prospect of missing the playoffs entirely this season. They’re currently sitting 12th in the Western Conference, and although they’re only one point out of a playoff spot, they need to leapfrog four teams to get in. They’ve played two more games than three of those opponents. The ‘Hawks have also lost four of five since getting star Patrick Kane back from injury.

THE QUOTE: “Are we a team that could be higher? Of course we are. We still feel that way. The first half is almost over, and we know we have to have a really good second half. No matter what happens, we’re going to give it everything we have.” — Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, trying to stay positive despite mountains of evidence that suggests the team is right where it should be.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, mid-January), C Jason Spezza (shoulder, indefinite). Blackhawks — LW Fernando Pisani (illness), D Kim Johnsson (concussion).

THE PREDICTION: I really did lean hard towards picking the Senators in this one. Sure, they’re facing the defending Cup champs in a different time zone, but it’s been an emotional week and that could fire this bunch up. There are too many factors working against them, however, not the least of which is an inability to keep the puck out of their own net on the road. Sens 2, ‘Hawks 3.

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