Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Senators Know Ending Four-Game Skid Is Huge as East Standings Tighten

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Senators Know Ending Four-Game Skid Is Huge as East Standings Tighten

Article excerpt

Senators enter tough week on a positive note


OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators didn't want to call it a must-win, but they know they can't afford long losing streaks as the race for the NHL playoffs starts to tighten.

The Senators put an end to a four-game skid Sunday night with a 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers heading into a week that will see them host the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs.

While it's still early in the season, players admit scoreboard watching has begun and the Senators realize any prolonged lapses will hurt their playoff hopes with the standings being close.

With a 21-14-4 record and 46 points the Senators hold a playoff spot as of Monday, but Toronto is just two points back.

"It's still really early, but we're focusing on our team, we're not focusing on the other team, but at the same time we're aware of everything that's going on around the league," said forward Derick Brassard. "We want to try and gain points every night and we're just focusing on the way we play."

Sunday night's effort was a solid group win and while it wasn't always pretty the Senators played well enough to earn the victory.

Senators head coach Guy Boucher has tinkered with lines for much of the season and Sunday the trio of Brassard, Zack Smith and Mark Stone was one of its best as they scored twice and created numerous chances.

Just as impressive was the work done by Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Tom Pyatt. While Pyatt and Pageau are counted on regularly for their defensive play, seeing Hoffman in such a role is still surprising.

Last season Hoffman was often criticized for his lack of defensive responsibility and rarely saw ice time late in a tight game. On Sunday Hoffman was on the ice with less than two minutes remaining in a one-goal contest.

"It obviously does give yourself confidence knowing that the coach believes and trusts in you," said Hoffman. "It's great for our team. That's how we get better and how we grow."

Boucher has been impressed with Hoffman's commitment to his defensive side of the game of late. …

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