Sens look to end road woes

Ot­tawa needs to work on their game away from home

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - SPORTS - BRUCE GAR­RIOCH

MON­TREAL — The road hasn’t been kind for the Ot­tawa Senators.

Now, they need to find the so­lu­tion, and quick.

As the Senators pre­pare to open this home-and-home se­ries against the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens Tues­day night at the Bell Cen­tre, they ’ll not only be try­ing to win four straight for the first time this sea­son, the club will also be af­ter its sec­ond con­sec­u­tive road vic­tory.

With a 3-8-1 record away from home and sit­ting only two points be­hind the Habs for the fi­nal wild­card spot in the East, the Senators need to start reel­ing off some vic­to­ries if they want to make a push for a play­off spot in the spring.

“You don’t have a dif­fer­ent mind­set on the road,” said al­ter­nate cap­tain Matt Duchene on Mon­day. “You come in and you want to try to feel the same as you do at home. We’ve had a good home record and we want to keep it go­ing.”

The Senators have played bet­ter de­fen­sively in vic­to­ries over the New York Rangers (3-0 Thurs­day) and the San Jose Sharks (6-2 Satur­day) and that mind­set can’t change as the club faces the Habs for the sec­ond time this sea­son.

Af­ter be­ing out­played in losses in Min­nesota (6-4) and Dal­las (6-4), the Senators made ad­just­ments to their de­fen­sive game be­fore a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers last Mon­day at Madi­son Square Gar­den. Since then, there has been a dif­fer­ence in the play.

“When we started the year I knew we weren’t go­ing to be good de­fen­sively no mat­ter how much time we spent on it be­cause of per­son­nel, age, ex­pe­ri­ence and so on,” coach Guy Boucher said.

“You need to have some­thing that you can hang your hat on and some­thing that makes you feel good. I thought if we spent a lot of time on our of­fence it would help to give our young guys con­fi­dence. We bet on the right thing that the of­fence was there.”

As a re­sult, the Senators have put their young play­ers in sit­u­a­tions where they can have scor­ing suc­cess, but the club has given up a league-high 109 goals 27 games while rank­ing sec­ond on of­fence with 98. An im­prove­ment in their own end is a must.

“We knew it would take a long time, and it still will take some more time, for the young guys to get that ex­pe­ri­ence,” Boucher said. “We’re still liv­ing that process. Just be­fore the Ranger game, we started a sec­ond step for us.

“We knew we had con­fi­dence for our of­fen­sive game and now we know we’ve got to grow in­di­vid­u­ally de­fen­sively. As a team we col­lec­tively made a ma­jor com­mit­ment to im­prove in our struc­ture (and) de­tails de­fen­sively. There’s a huge com­mit­ment from our play­ers to get­ting bet­ter de­fen­sively as whole. With three straight wins, the Senators feel they’re headed in the right di­rec­tion.

“We were try­ing to fo­cus on be­ing bet­ter in our own zone and in the last three games that’s where we re­ally took a big step in the right di­rec­tion,” said de­fence­man Thomas Chabot, who played 26:23 and had two as­sists in the vic­tory over the Sharks.

“That’s where we want to keep go­ing. It’s a long sea­son and things are go­ing well for now, but we want to keep it rolling.”

Chabot said giv­ing up less scor­ing chances puts less pres­sure on goal­tender Craig An­der­son to make the key saves. The Senators have been out­shot 1,022-to-808 this sea­son. The last cou­ple of games have been a step in the right di­rec­tion.

“First things first, we give up way less scor­ing chances which gives Andy a huge help,” Chabot said. “He’s been great since the start of the year for us and one thing we’ve re­ally been try­ing to fo­cus on is scor­ing chances against.

“That’s some­thing we’re do­ing a bet­ter job at but it’s some­thing we want to work and get bet­ter at.”

The road is a big test be­cause Boucher has spo­ken at length this year about the fact he doesn’t get the first change and that’s a huge dis­ad­van­tage with young play­ers learn­ing their way.

“On the road, the op­po­nent feels com­fort­able, they give you the matchups they want, so you al­ways rely on your qual­ity depth on the road,” said Boucher. “You don’t have enough qual­ity depth you can’t be good on the road.

“We’re slowly de­vel­op­ing the depth be­cause our young guys are get­ting ex­pe­ri­ence. Our team com­mit­ment is bet­ter de­fen­sively now and I think you’ve seen four lines that are able to show good stuff on both sides of the ice.

“On the road, we’re go­ing to hope­fully keep the lines and sus­tain what the op­po­nent is throw­ing at us.”

The Senators need to take an­other step Tues­day.

WAYNE CUD­DING­TON/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Goalie Craig An­der­son keeps his eye on the puck as the Ot­tawa Senators prac­tice at Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre, on Mon­day.

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