Slumping Senators have work to do ahead of Rangers tilt

The Ottawa Senators — by the time the smoke cleared Saturday night — were in as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, just three points clear of the ninth-place Buffalo Sabres, and 16th among the 16 teams that qualify for the NHL post-season.

Slumping Senators have work to do ahead of Rangers tilt

OTTAWA — After getting a day off to think about how lousy they’ve been playing, the Ottawa Senators now have three days off of practice before heading to New York to face the Rangers in a first-round playoff series.

They have work to do before Game 1 Thursday night.

After slumping through the final week of the season, the Senators wound up as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, just three points clear of the ninth-place Buffalo Sabres, and 16th among the 16 teams that qualify for the NHL post-season.

But that doesn’t matter. They’re in.

This playoff series has, er, been a long time in the making. It will be the first time the Senators and the New York Rangers have met in the post-season in 82 years.

In 1930, the Rangers beat the original Senators in a two-game series, six goals to three.

After Saturday’s 4-2 regular-season finale loss to the New Jersey Devils, it was all the Senators could do to forget about the game and look forward.

“Everything comes in waves,” said goalie Craig Anderson. “You get ups and downs. We had a good four-game (winning streak) there, but we have to make sure our lows aren’t so low.

“Right now we have a clean slate. What happened in the last few games is behind us. We get a fresh start this week, and our mindset is we have to win four before the other team wins four.”

He and his teammates would rather be carrying a winning streak into the playoffs, but the Senators have been a streaky team this season. What’s important, he said, is to shed bad habits during the next three days.

“We’ve had resiliency all year and found ways to win hockey games,” Anderson said. “It’s no different going forward here. We need to find our game and bring out the best in our game.

“We have a few days of practice to do that. We just have to worry about what we can control, and that’s our own effort.”

Coach Paul MacLean will certainly be hoping his scorers find their touch before Thursday or else it’s going to be difficult to get anything past Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Erik Karlsson had just one assist in his last four games, and that cost him a chance to be the first defenceman in 20 years to finish in the Top 10 in league scoring. He finished 11th with 19 goals and 59 assists.

Nick Foligno and Milan Michalek didn’t have a point in their last three games, while Daniel Alfredsson had one assist in his last three.

Jason Spezza was blanked against the Devils, but he’s been one of the more consistent forwards, with five goals and four assists in his last six games.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re ready and obviously come back with a better effort in our first game of the playoffs and I’m sure we will,” said Foligno. “We have to make sure we’re doing the things we need to win, and that’s playing a structured game, getting the pucks in and using our speed.

“We’re a fast team and we have to use that to our advantage in the playoffs.”

As they finished their own regular season with a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals, the Rangers were being chided for missing a chance at the Presidents’ Trophy and for not avoiding the Senators in the first round.

The Senators took three of four from the Rangers this season and the last two were particularly decisive: A 3-0 victory at Madison Square Garden and a 4-1 victory at Scotiabank Place.

Not surprisingly, that put Rangers coach John Tortorella on the defensive.

“No matter who we play — because I’m sure that’s what everybody’s going to talk about, ‘We should have played Washington, now we have Ottawa’ — you don’t go about your business that way,” he said. “This team here, the New York Rangers, can beat anybody in this league.”

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