OTTAWA - It's been a tough four days off for Bobby Ryan and the Ottawa Senators.
Over that span, the Senators could only watch as teams made up ground in the tight Eastern Conference standings. But after four days of scoreboard watching, Ottawa (28-25-12) returns to action Saturday night visiting the Montreal Canadiens (35-25-7).
"It's been a tough week not playing and looking at other teams getting points," said Ryan. "That's the worst.
"You want to compete and you want to be playing at the same time."
While the Senators made use of their time off by working on various aspects of their game in practice, the reality is they would've preferred to be playing.
"You're getting a chance that not a lot of teams are going to get at this time of year to review and go over things and find some systematic things that are going to work for you," said Ryan. "At the same time when you take four days off you lose that step and timing.
"I mean it doesn't take long to come back, we're professionals. But this time of year with everyone playing what seems like every other night you want to be doing that as well. That's the only downside of that."
Ottawa dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Nashville Predators on Monday night but also lost goalie Craig Anderson.
Anderson was knocked over by teammate Milan Michalek midway through the third period and left the game. That was after taking a Shea Weber slapshot off his shoulder and dropping to the ice in obvious pain.
Earlier this season, Anderson missed two games with a stiff neck.
"It's a combination of that, the collision and the shot from Weber was up high so it's kind of a combination of all stuff," said Senators head coach Paul MacLean. "We just want to make sure he's good to go when we need him to go."
Despite the layoff, it appears Anderson isn't ready to return. On Friday, the Senators recalled Nathan Lawson from AHL Binghamton.
Robin Lehner will start in Montreal, but the Senators haven't ruled out Anderson for Sunday's home game against the Colorado Avalanche.
Lehner hasn't played since Feb. 27 when he allowed six goals on 15 shots against the Detroit Red Wings.
"I've been practising real hard to try and get better," said Lehner. "I was just waiting for an opportunity and it's important right now.
"We've got to win and we've got to win Sunday too."
Lehner said he'd have no problem playing both games, if needed.
Fortunately for Ottawa, three of its next four games are at home. But Ryan didn't mince words when asked if this weekend was a do-or-die situation for the club.
"Almost," he said. "You hate to say it, but it has been for a while almost.
"For us we can't afford anything less than four points this weekend. When we start again Monday we're going to say the same thing about Tuesday's game."
Ottawa has been inconsistent and hasn't won consecutive games since Feb. 6. The Senators are 2-3-1 since the Olympic break.
"I kind of feel like we need five, six even seven wins in a row to get ourselves into a position where you can afford to lose one because right now we can't," said Ryan. "We can't afford to come out flat any nights right now."
The time off allowed Ottawa's top line of Ales Hemsky, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek to work together more in practice. Then again, since Hemsky was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline, the unit has combined for 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in three games.
Since the start of the season Spezza has played with various right-wingers and would like more than a little consistency.
"It's nice to have familiarity and practising with the same guys every day and knowing we're going to go out there as a line," said Spezza. "We want to keep having success so it stays that way. (Hemsky's) been a good fit with us and me and (Michalek) have played together for years."
NOTES—Defenceman Cody Ceci should be able to play Saturday. Ceci was hit in the head by a Weber shot Monday night.