Welcome to training camp in late March

Welcome to training camp in late March
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators handles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

 

First came the off-ice workout for the Ottawa Senators. Then came the 45-minute practice, followed by a resurfacing of the ice and yet another 45-minute skate.

It wasn’t meant as punishment from coach Paul MacLean to his players. Rather, it was MacLean’s attempt to simulate the effort the players might exert during a 60-minute contest.

Due to the goofiness of the NHL schedule – after defeating the Winnipeg Jets 6-4 on Monday, the Senators aren’t in action again until playing the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and the New York Islanders on Sunday — the Senators tried to use Wednesday to best advantage.

The team was off from practice on Tuesday and won’t be skating Thursday, either.

“It’s different than normal,” said centre Jason Spezza, who is still drawing rave reviews for dancing his way through the Jets defence before setting up Kyle Turris for a goal against Winnipeg. “You don’t usually have a 1:40 practice this late in the year, but Paul has a plan on what he wants to do and today was a good work day.

“You welcome it as a player to have four days off at this time of year. We’re coming off a hard three days in four nights, we travelled to the last game and the guys were pretty tired (Tuesday).”

Defenceman Chris Phillips, who has raised his game a notch in the stretch run towards the playoffs – he was paired with Sergei Gonchar at practice – says “it’s kind of a nice in a way” to be in position of watching other teams beat each other up.

“It is crazy, but we’ll take the rest and use it to whatever advantage we can and get ready to finish (our season),” he said. “We knew it was a good day to push ourselves.”

The challenge for MacLean this week is finding the proper balance between rest and rust. Captain Daniel Alfredsson, who scored twice in the Senators win over Winnipeg, was given the day off from Wednesday’s workout.

“We were basically trying to re-enact a game situation as far as the workload is concerned,” said MacLean. “(Wednesday), we tried to trick our body into thinking we had played another game. (Thursday), we can have another day off from practice. We will practice Friday and get ready for the weekend.”

The workout featured plenty of time on the power play and MacLean was satisfied that the Senators accomplished what they wanted. He says the break is a positive.

“It’s a good opportunity for us, if we use it wisely,” he said. “The big thing is finding consistency in our game. We’re still working on the defensive side of the game, but also our team play as a whole and maintaining the work ethic.”

While the Senators aren’t playing all week, they can’t put blinders on to what’s going on around them, either, as they hope to secure one of the eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference as soon as possible.

The Senators currently sit seventh, two points ahead of the eighth-placed Buffalo Sabres and four points up on the ninth-placed Washington Capitals. At this point, every point picked up by the Senators and lost by Buffalo and Washington is pivotal. The magic points number against Washington is seven. The magic number against Buffalo is eight.

Washington, which lost 5-1 to Buffalo on Tuesday, plays the Boston Bruins Thursday. Buffalo, currently on a 7-0-2 run, plays host to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

“I’m not putting everything aside so I can watch the games, but I am keeping a pretty close eye on it, yes,” said Phillips.

 

ODD FEELING FOR FOLIGNO: Senators winger Nick Foligno wants his kid brother Marcus to continue to shine with Buffalo, but there are limits to his brotherly pride. “They’re on a magical run right now,” said Nick. “They’re playing right at the right time. They’ve got a lot of bodies back (from injuries). I’m proud of Marcus. He’s done a great job of helping that team and coming in and giving them energy. Sometimes, a young kid can come in and energize a whole group. He’s playing hungry. I really don’t like to see them playing well, because they’re pushing up our bums, but I am happy for Marcus and the opportunity he’s getting and I hope he makes the most out of it.” Marcus Foligno, recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, has six goals and four assists in nine games. He has a plus/minus rating of plus nine during that stretch.

So, does Nick want Marcus to play in the playoffs?

“As long as we make the playoffs, I would be happy for Marcus,” he said. “He’s my brother and I would be excited for the opportunity for him to play in the playoffs. That’s every player’s dream. It’s pretty impressive to see their run right now and they’ve done well, but I’m more worried about how we’re playing and what we’re doing.”

 

BISHOP MAKING STRIDES: Injured Senators goaltender Ben Bishop is hoping to be back skating this weekend and is optimistic he’ll see game action before the regular season ends. While Bishop wasn’t specific about what the team has described as the “lower body” injury he suffered during last Saturday’s 8-4 win over Pittsburgh, it’s believed to be a groin injury. “It’s feeling better, it’s moving along faster than we thought,” said Bishop. “It’s nothing serious, nothing bad.” Bishop says he’s never had a similar issue, but he acknowledges that he felt something early in the game that got worse as the game went on.

 

 

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