With many of his offensive stars mired in prolonged slumps, Ottawa Senators head coach Cory Clouston quickly dismissed the notion of benching any of his forwards to help spark his team.
“If it takes you to get benched to get your ass in gear, then there is something wrong,” Clouston said on Friday afternoon.
In Thursday’s loss at Atlanta, the offense finally broke out with three goals, but they were tallied by blue collar players – Chris Kelly, Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Phillips.
Many of the players that are counted on for offensive production remain frozen in extended slumps: Alexei Kovalev (0 points in 8 games), Daniel Alfredsson (0 goals in 9 games), Ryan Shannon (0 goals in 20 games) and Peter Regin (1 goal in 18 games).
“Whenever you are struggling offensively, you just have to drive the net harder. As long as the chances are coming, you tell yourself you’re going to come out of it,” said Jason Spezza, who has scored just one goal in eight games since the Olympic break. Prior to that, Spezza had scored 10 goals in his previous 11 games.
Not only did Clouston dismiss the notion of benching players to get his point across, he emphasized that keeping line combinations intact is also important at this time. When the Senators face the Dallas Stars on Saturday afternoon, they will likely stick with the line combinations used in the 6-3 loss to Atlanta.
However, Clouston will be forced to make one change to his lineup, as Milan Michalek is listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game. Michalek did skate briefly with the team on Friday afternoon, after suffering a left leg injury in the second period on Thursday. The injury does not appear to be serious.
With just one win in eight games since the Olympic break, Senators have slipped to sixth place in the Eastern Conference and are suddenly looking behind them in the standings. With 11 games to play, the slumping Sens will likely need to win at least five of their remaining games to secure a post-season berth.
“We’re certainly not playing at the top of our game, but we’re still in a good position,” said Matt Cullen. ” It’s certainly not like something where we think we’re going to back into the playoffs. We understand the urgency here.”
“I don’t think it’s a miracle discovery right now. We just need to get back to out working other teams,” added defenseman Chris Phillips.
Notes: Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Filip Kuba all missed practice on Friday, but should be available to play on Saturday … Clouston did not reveal his starting goalie for Saturday afternoon’s game in Dallas.