Senators still seeking consistency

Setting aside Thursday’s lopsided 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche — where the Ottawa Senators were simply bad from start to finish — the hockey team has played well in only bits and pieces of games this season.

OTTAWA — Setting aside Thursday’s lopsided 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche — where the Ottawa Senators were simply bad from start to finish — the hockey team has played well in only bits and pieces of games this season.
A period here and a period there, but not much consistency as far as effort and success.
That’s the way coach Paul MacLean sees it.
The periods of effort and consistency is something to build on, since the players know they have it in themselves to be competitive.
But it’s also the reason that the Senators have only have one win in five games.
The NHL is a pretty unforgiving place for teams that don’t pay attention for 60 minutes.
The Senators thought they deserved a better fate in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals, and maybe they did, even if they just played two of three periods, after allowing the Capitals to dominate the first frame.
But when you’re a work in progress, said MacLean, the breaks usually don’t your way.
“Sometimes when you’re a team like us, you have to lose a little bit more maybe before things turn around,” said MacLean.
The test for the Senators this week will be to see if they can build on their effort against Washington or whether it was an anomaly, an adrenalin rush borne of playing against a top team.
There will be a mixed bag of opponents this week to test that theory: the Philadelphia Flyers, one of the league’s top teams, on Tuesday, followed by the Winnipeg Jets and the Columbus Blue Jackets, two of the league’s worst.
Ottawa will also find out what it’s like to play a stretch on home ice — all three games will be at Scotiabank Place.
Both the Jets and Blue Jackets are winless, and on Sunday, to demonstrate his displeasure, Columbus coach Scott Arniel put his team through a punishing practice of skating and drills.
The Senators know the feeling, which is why they were hoping that they’ve truly rebounded from the loss to Colorado.
“I think we can feel good about the way we stuck with it, especially in the first two periods,” said goalie Alex Auld, who was victimized by Marcus Johansson’s wraparound goal and an earlier marker from Nick Backstrom but blanked the Capitals after that to give the Senators a chance.
“At the same time, it’s a loss and we didn’t get any points.
“But for us it’s about learning and learning how to play a game like that for 60 minutes and knowing that we can come in and play with a top-level team. So I think that’s huge for us.
“But we can’t just say, ‘Oh, we came close against the Capitals.’ We have to want more, and be pushing for more.
“But it’s good to see a lot of what the coaches have been talking about and what we’ve been working on in practice come out in a game. It’s a positive thing.”

LINE JUGGLING

It will be interesting to see if MacLean continues to load up on his No. 1 line like he did in Washington, putting Milan Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson, and Jason Spezza together. Or whether the coach does this only when he needs a goal and sees this threesome as the one best suited to get it.
One line MacLean would be nuts to touch is the combo of Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, and Chris Neil.
Neil has obviously taken on the leadership role the team has wanted him to take. His enthusiasm has lifted the line and made it, much of the time, the team’s best.

INJURY UPDATE

When the Senators return to practice today, they’ll likely be without Bobby Butler (groin) and Sergei Gonchar (bruised foot).
How long Gonchar will be out is uncertain, but he told a Russian journalist after Saturday’s game that his foot wasn’t broken, so it may only be days.
Jesse Winchester has been cleared for contact but not to play, while Matt Carkner remains out after surgery on his right knee.

ROAD WARRIORS

With Gonchar out after the first period, MacLean had to ask his five remaining defencemen to play more.
Erik Karlsson played the most, 27 minutes five seconds, with Chris Phillips next at 24: 45.
After playing just 3: 37 in the first period, David Rundblad ended up playing a total of 17: 24, while Jared Cowen, who played only 3: 44 in the first, played a total of 18: 40.
The way he looked in the first period, Rundblad probably only deserved to play what he played.
But with only 25.2 seconds left in the first, he got an assist on Peter Regin’s goal. In the second and third periods, he was given a lot more ice time in the second and looked fine.

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