Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Senators Look to Take the Next Step, Know They Won't Be Surprising Anyone

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Senators Look to Take the Next Step, Know They Won't Be Surprising Anyone

Article excerpt

Senators look to build on surprising season

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OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators aren't going to fly under anyone's radar this season.

The Senators weren't predicted to make much noise in 2011-12, but they surpassed expectations by making the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and taking the top-seeded New York Rangers to seven games in the opening round.

Everything seemed to come together for the Senators last year and they're eager to build off the experience.

First-year coach Paul MacLean finally seemed to be the right fit behind the bench, captain Daniel Alfredsson remained healthy, Jason Spezza finished the league fourth in scoring, Craig Anderson was solid in goal and Erik Karlsson posted 78 points en route to winning his first Norris Trophy.

Now the Senators will attempt to all the pieces come together once again in a lockout shortened season.

"I think we have a pretty good idea where our expectations should be and what we expect out of ourselves," Alfredsson said. "We can't control what everybody else thinks and I hope they think we're better than we were last year because I'm sure we did surprise a lot of people, but we have a pretty good idea of what kind of team we are and we know we have to work hard to be back in the playoffs."

MacLean was more blunt about his team this season.

"I feel good about it, but I'm also scared to death," he said.

Alfredsson, now 40, believes his body can hold up to the rigours of the condensed schedule, but you can bet the Senators will be monitoring him closely.

Meanwhile other teams will be monitoring Karlsson closely after his breakout season. In addition, Karlsson finds himself with a new defence partner in Marc Methot after the Senators chose to let Filip Kuba test free agency.

Methot and Karlsson have looked good in camp, but the question remains whether or not they can find the right chemistry.

"With a guy like him I need to put my ego aside and really just feed him the puck as much as humanly possible," Methot said. "There's a reason why he was the best defenceman in the league last season and you just have to let him make plays and the more he has the puck on his stick the more opportunity he's going to have."

With a season-ending injury to Jared Cowen it would be easy to view the Senators blue-line as its Achilles heel.

Veteran Mike Lundin remains sidelined with a broken finger, creating opportunities for AHL players Patrick Wiercioch, Mark Borowiecki and Andre Benoit. The youngsters will likely be paired with veterans Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar, but should the experiment fail expect general manager Bryan Murray to make a move.

The Senators are hoping any defensive shortcomings will be smoothed over by depth in goal. While Craig Anderson comes in as the No. 1, the Senators are high on young goalies Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner. …

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