Senators post promising weekend

 

Like a good portion of the population on New Year’s Day, Ottawa Senators players had a quiet day Sunday, clearing their heads from the night before.

In their case, it was about skating away from the sad sound of pucks hitting posts and relishing in a two-win weekend which saw them climb past the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings and into a sixth-placed tie with the New Jersey Devils, who visit Scotiabank Place on Monday.

For those who might have missed the details due to their own celebrations, Bobby Butler scored in the fifth round of a shootout Saturday night to give the Senators a 3-2 shootout victory over the injury-ravaged Buffalo Sabres. The Senators dominated the game, but needed to escape from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits for the win.

The shootout victory came only 24 hours after Daniel Alfredsson scored his 400th career goal, in overtime, to give the Senators their come-from-way-behind 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames.

Butler’s goal Saturday came on a night when the Senators tested Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth 46 times and many players had lost track of how many times they had hit the post. Was it six? Seven? Eight?

“We told ourselves to just keep shooting and eventually it will go our way,” said Butler, who hit the post twice himself in regulation. “We’re growing as a team and it shows in the last two games.”

Along the way, the Senators are receiving offensive contributions from here, there and everywhere. Overall, they rank eighth in the NHL in goals per game (2.97), a lofty jump from the 2010-11, when they scored only 2.32 per game, 29th in the league.

The scoring hasn’t been overly top-heavy, with Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson being asked to carry the team offensively every night.

Michalek leads the way with 19, but hasn’t scored since returning from a concussion on Dec. 27. Spezza has 13, followed by Alfredsson, Nick Foligno and Zack Smith (11 each), Colin Greening (eight), Erik Condra (six), then Erik Karlsson and Chris Neil (five each).

The Senators two regulation goals Saturday came from Matt Carkner – the fourth of his career and first since Dec. 10, 2010 – and Neil.

“We felt going into the season that we would score enough goals,” said coach Paul MacLean, a sentiment that wasn’t echoed by many outside observers. “The expectation is that every line can contribute. The expectations from the Jason Spezza line, obviously, are way higher than the Zenon Konpoka line, but you would like to have the ability for every line on your team to contribute offensively. The Spezza line can’t do it every night and you need help along the way. When you have that support throughout your lineup, it makes it easier to be consistent.”

There have been numerous surprises.

Greening carried the hot stick early, while Smith, Foligno and Condra have found the range lately.

Smith came into the season with only six goals in 71 previous NHL games. Foligno scored only 14 in 82 games last season and potted only nine in 61 games in 2009-10.

“You need a lot of guys pitching in,” said Foligno. “It allows you to be a more dangerous team and that’s a real important reason why we’re winning. We’re real proud that we’ve had some guys come in and score goals and it shows a lot about the team chemistry we’ve got. Guys can step up and fill that role in the secondary role, so to speak. It has been a key to our success and we have to continue that if we’re going to get into the playoffs.”

If they didn’t hit so many posts, the goal scoring picture would look even prettier.

 END NOTES: As Sunday was an off day, there was no update on the status of Sergei Gonchar, taken out of Saturday’s game for “precautionary reasons” after an errant Kyle Turris shot hit him in the head during pre-game warm-ups…Calgary defenceman Cory Sarich was fined $2,500, but not suspended, for his dangerous open ice hit to Erik Condra’s head during Friday’s game. Condra is sporting a bright red scar across his nose as a souvenir

 

 

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