Phoenix Coyotes at Ottawa Senators on Oct. 26, 2010

Is it too early to start talking about must-wins?

Phoenix Coyotes at Ottawa Senators on Oct. 26, 2010
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, left, and Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Lee Stempniak, right, vie for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Denver. The Penguins won 3-2 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

THE STORY: Is it too early to start talking about must-wins? The Ottawa Senators could be in deep trouble if they don’t pick it up in the three home games that close out the month of October. On the flip side, they’re back to .500 if they sweep, putting themselves right back into the playoff picture. It’s impossible to tell which Senators team will show up on any given night, however.

THE SUBPLOTS: What will it take to motivate this team? Last week, general manager Bryan Murray threatened to trade players and coach Cory Clouston bag-skated his troops to shock them out of their stupor. It lasted all of one game. With the team hard against the cap and owner Eugene Melynk probably unwilling to park big salaries in the minors, they’ll probably have to live or die with this group. If the Senators continue to show the kind of listlessness they did in Saturday night’s loss, that would make for a long season.

THE WILDCARD: Mike Fisher. He was Ottawa’s best player for lengthy stretches last season and needs to regain that form. The longer Jason Spezza remains out of the lineup with a nagging groin injury, the more the Senators need their de facto No. 1 centre to step up to the plate. He has just three points this season (one assist in his last four games) and is a minus-two.

THE OPPONENT: The Senators could be catching the Coyotes at the right time. Not only did the dogs begin the season in Europe, which usually sets teams back a little in the opening weeks, they’re coming off the first of back-to-back contests. They dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Montreal Canadiens Monday night after rallying to tie the score in the third period.

THE QUOTE: “We worked hard coming back into the zone. We created turnovers, (but) we did nothing with the turnovers. Therefore, we get the puck, do nothing with it, it ends up being turned over again in our zone, and you just spend the whole game on that vicious rollercoaster, and we just couldn’t get off of it.” — Coach Clouston, explaining why he thought the Senators lost Saturday.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — D Filip Kuba (broken leg, three weeks), G Pascal Leclaire (groin, indefinite), C Jason Spezza (groin, day-to-day). Coyotes — C Martin Hanzal (lower body, indefinite), W Shane Doan (undisclosed).

THE PREDICTION: Well, for the second time in a week I’m going to be the only one on our prediction panel to pick the Senators to lose. Sure they’re desperate for a win and the Winnipeg Jets (see what I did there?) played Monday night, but I just can’t find any justifiable reason to back the home team in this spot. My one concern is the desert dogs will sit Ilya Bryzgalov, but Ottawa shooters are making everyone look like a Vezina candidate anyways. Sens 2, Jets 3.

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