OTTAWA - With the Ottawa Senators struggling to find an identity, the players believe it's time to go back to basics.
"It's being ready every time you step on the ice to go and do the right things and have a good shift," said defenceman Chris Phillips. "It's not thinking that you have to have a good game, not thinking that you have to win the game because you've lost a couple. You've got to throw the results out the window and just focus on playing your shift."
The Senators have stumbled out of the gate to a 2-5-1 record. As a whole, the players realize change is necessary, but admit trying too hard can create even more problems.
"When you're losing you start over-analyzing every play," said forward Chris Kelly. "When things are going good you just go out there and play, and when things aren't you tend to think the game more than you should. Should I be here, should I be there and most times you end up in the middle and in the wrong spot. It's not lack of effort by anyone in this room for where we are."
Where the Senators are is not pretty. With three games this week against Phoenix, Florida and Boston, they have little time to sit back and ponder their state of misery.
"We're a confident group in here, that's not in the back of my mind," admitted Kelly, who has been honest in assessing the team’s early play. "I know we're going to get out of this and play the hockey that we're normally used to playing and be fine.
"After eight games you can't just go out there and panic, it's not going to help the situation. You can’t go out there and do other guys' jobs. Each guy has their job to do and that's how you get out of this as a team. It's not one guy that’s going to get us on the right track and I think that if that's the mentality that guys think then we’re going to be in way more trouble than we are right now."
There's no denying the Senators have missed centre Jason Spezza, who has been sidelined for the past three games with a groin injury. Spezza, who skated on his own prior to Monday's practice, is doubtful for Tuesday's game against the Coyotes. Head coach Cory Clouston said he's "hopeful" for Thursday.
Without Spezza, the Senators have managed just four goals in their past two games, three of which came from Daniel Alfredsson.
Despite having scored just 16 goals this season, the Senators continued to focus on defence in practice as Clouston believes that if the Senators can have better execution out of its own end it will result in more offensive opportunities.
"Today was all based on supporting our defencemen and giving them a chance to have success," said Clouston. "We worked on breakouts, regroups, everything under pressure and making sure we have a plan once we have possession."
While the players like to keep things in perspective by pointing out it's just eight games into the season, they do realize there is a sense of urgency.
"We’ve got to turn it around soon that's for sure," said forward Mike Fisher. "These games now are just as important as they are in April."
While Phillips is quick to acknowledge that this is far from the start the team wanted, it's not uncharted territory for the Senators. He pointed out that in 2006-07 the team started the season going 6-10-1 and eventually went on to reach the Stanley Cup final.
NOTES—Tuesday’s game against Phoenix will mark 36-year-old Sergei Gonchar’s 1,000th in the NHL. The Russian said he will likely give it more thought when he’s done playing. "I'm very happy, I'm very proud, but it’s more about the game," said Gonchar. "It seems like a 1,000 games just flew by. It seems like I just got to the NHL and started playing." ... G Pascal Leclaire (groin) and D Filip Kuba (leg) skated in full equipment on their own Monday morning, but until both take part in a full practice and feel game ready neither is expected back in the lineup.