Senators warming up after Florida trip

How about that for a mid-winter pick up trip to Florida? The Ottawa Senators are revived and refreshed, re-establishing themselves as a legitimate playoff contender following an impressive Sunshine State sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. In short, they enjoyed a little sun and a lot of fun, leaving the memories of that seven-game losing streak behind.

Senators warming up after Florida trip
Matt Puempel. (Julie Oliver/OttawaCitizen)

SUNRISE, Florida – How about that for a mid-winter pick up trip to Florida?

The Ottawa Senators are revived and refreshed, re-establishing themselves as a legitimate playoff contender following an impressive Sunshine State sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. In short, they enjoyed a little sun and a lot of fun, leaving the memories of that seven-game losing streak behind.

After a day off Thursday, allowing the players to say good bye to their good luck charms – aka, their fathers – they will now enjoy a rare weekend off from game action before playing the New York Islanders Monday afternoon.

Once again the Senators have become the hunted team, watching to see if their closest challengers such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals can gain ground as they approach the league-high 60 games the Senators have already played.

“We knew we only had two games this week and wanted to make sure we left it all out there,” said the red-hot Jason Spezza.

Spezza had three assists in Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers and three goals and four assists in the two-game Florida sweep. Spezza also has five goals and seven assists in his past four games. Before Thursday’s games, Spezza was second in the NHL scoring race behind Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin.

“It was important for us to get the wins and take care of our business. We feel that’s what we have to do the rest of the way. If we take care of our own games and get ourselves in position where we win the majority of our own games, we can handle our own fate.”

It’s remarkable how quickly fortunes can change. It only seems like yesterday that the Senators couldn’t do anything right at either end of the rink.

Now goaltender Craig Anderson is making the big initial stops, his defence is clearing the rebounds and the forwards – from first line to fourth line – are burying their chances. The Senators have scored 17 goals in their past four games.

“They call it puck luck for a reason,” said coach Paul MacLean. “But for the most part, you have that puck luck when everyone’s working. Usually, it’s predicated on how hard you work.”

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who hit the 20-goal mark for the 13th season when he scored a shorthanded breakaway goal against Florida, is bursting with confidence about the team and himself.

“Hopefully, I can keep pushing and who knows? Maybe I can flirt with 30.”

That would have been beyond the wildest expectations of even the most optimistic Senators fan at the start of the season. Yet while Alfredsson, Spezza, Milan Michalek, Bobby Butler and Erik Karlsson have re-established themselves as offensive stars, Wednesday’s game also produced some offence from the team’s depth players. Jim O’Brien – his first in the NHL – Kaspars Daugavins and Filip Kuba also scored.

On Tuesday, Daugavins says his father, Armens, was “giving it to me”, joking that the least his son could do was score a goal to make the trip from their native Latvia worth the time and expense. Daugavins delivered with his first goal in 38 games.

“You just have to stay with it mentally,” he said. “I know scoring goals is not my main job.”

MacLean says it was a welcome sign that the team’s depth players have received the confidence boost.

“They’ve all been real good soldiers for us and they’ve had some ups and downs,” he said. “It’s nice to see them get rewarded for sticking to it.”

JASON SPEZZA’S LAST FOUR GAMES

Feb. 9 vs. Nashville 2 G, 1A

Feb. 11 vs. Edmonton 0G, 2A

Feb. 14 @ Tampa Bay 3G, 1A

Feb. 15 @ Florida 0G, 3A

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