Senators understand big picture, but focus on short term gains

Call it Training Camp 2.0 – with only 23 games left to win or lose a playoff berth.

Before Monday’s practice, Ottawa Senators players talked with head coach Paul MacLean about where the team needs to be when the regular season ends in seven weeks.

Throughout Monday’s workout, the players met in smaller groups with the assistant coaches, looking at ways to fine-tune some strategies, adding what MacLean later referred to as “new wrinkles” to perhaps give the Senators an edge.

The 80-minute workout then ended with players doing hard skating starts and stops between the blue lines. If the Senators lost their legs and lungs during the Olympic break, the aim is to have them back in time for the race for the wire, beginning Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Call it Training Camp 2.0 – with only 23 games left to win or lose a playoff berth.

History suggests the Senators will probably need 93 points to get comfortably into the post-season, meaning 30 points over that stretch and a record something along the lines of 13-6-4 or 14-5-2. At the same time, the team is doing its best to try and only worry about the next game.

“We’ve touched on it briefly, usually 93 or 94 points is needed, but you also don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself and worry about it too much,” said captain Jason Spezza. “That’s a long way from now. If you lose two in a row, you don’t want to panic and start thinking about only being able to lose six games or whatever it is. And there are going to be a lot of teams around us, too.

“This may be a year where it’s different and takes less or more (points), but the good thing is we play a lot of head to head match-ups against teams we’re going to be battling with.”

MacLean says there should be no surprises for the players.

“We want them to understand what the big picture is and the chore that is in front of them, but at the same time, have them understand that it’s a day by day process,” he said. “You’ve got to focus every day or what you have to do for the next game. It’s always about the next game. The last one you played is irrelevant.”

If there’s a bonus for the Senators in terms of preparation, it’s that the gang is almost all here to hear the messages.

–Winger Milan Michalek, who represented the Czech Republic at the Olympics, will return to practice at Gatineau’s Robert Guertin Arena Tuesday. He worked out in the gym Monday.

–Defenceman Erik Karlsson, whose Swedish team lost to Canada 3-0 in Sunday’s Olympic final, will be allowed a few days off before being skating with the Senators. MacLean says returning to practice Tuesday or Wendesday is “not important”.

“We’ll probably ease him in at about 37 minutes (per game),” MacLean said, with a laugh.

“I anticipate him being on the ice at the pre-game skate Thursday. That’s what I anticipate. But if he comes to the rink (Tuesday) and says he wants to practice, we’re not going to keep him off the ice.”

–Bobby Ryan should be ready to go on Thursday, as well. After being held off the ice for several days due to an undisclosed nagging injury – the speculation is that it is groin or hamstring related – Ryan skated Monday and declared “it’s the best I’ve felt in a long time.”

Ryan says he had been working closely with the training staff before the Olympic break, but couldn’t address the injury during the mandated time off during the Olympics.

“With what we’ve done in the last couple of days, I should be good to go from here on out,” he said. “It was something that was kind of annoying us for awhile and we tried and tried different things (before the Olympics).”

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