OTTAWA – Call them the Pesky Sens.
The Ottawa Senators are quickly getting known for their ability to overcome just about anything thrown at them, and it’s a reputation they relish.
They’re finding a way to win despite long-term injuries to key players, including star centre Jason Spezza, Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Erik Karlsson, starting goaltender Craig Anderson and forward Milan Michalek.
Despite the growing list of injuries the Senators (16-8-6) are on a three-game winning streak and sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with 38 points, three behind fourth-place Boston.
The Senators showed their pluckiness again Tuesday night, overcoming a 3-1 deficit and the loss of defenceman Marc Methot in a 5-3 road win over the New York Islanders.
The word “pesky” first started being used to describe the Sens last season by the media, but this year even the players are on board..
After Tuesday’s game veteran defenceman Chris Phillips was overheard telling a reporter to make sure to put the hash tag #PeskySens on his tweets, and within the next few hours many Senators players did the same.
“It’s a word that’s been used a lot,” Phillips said. “If ever there was a time to use it (Tuesday) night was the time for sure.”
Teammates were crediting Phillips for inspiring the team to take on that resilient attitude after the second period of Tuesday’s game.
“I said a few words for sure to stay positive and not keep our head down or be upset about anything that had gone on for the first 40 minutes,” Phillips said. “That’s the way our team has been this year to make things happen in games like this and we were able to pull it off.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean has given his veteran players much of the credit for the team’s ability to remain competitive throughout a rash of injuries.
“I think that leadership from within the group is a priority to having any success in anything,” said MacLean. “I think it’s real important and I think empowering that leadership and giving them responsibility is a big part of allowing the leadership to step forth and take charge of situations when they need to. We’ve encouraged that here and it’s an expectation from the coaching staff to the players that leadership is the responsibility of every player.”
Every time the Senators have lost a teammate to injury this year they have managed to bounce back and now feel confident in their ability to overcome just about anything.
“(The injuries) might have taken the pressure off a bit,” said centre Zack Smith. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little surprised (at our success). When you see guys like Spezza and Karlsson and Michalek go down it’s pretty disheartening and you wonder without that experience and leadership and skill how you’re going to come away with wins some nights, but we find a way. I think the biggest thing is we work hard.”
The number of injuries has forced the Senators to recall a number of players from its AHL affiliate in Binghamton, and veterans say their youthful exuberance has had an impact.
“Fun is a big part of it, there’s no question,” captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “With the schedule the way it is now, there’s so many games night in, night out and you have to have a good atmosphere and you have to have fun going to the rink and that brings energy and I believe very strongly that we have used that to our advantage a lot of nights.”
Erik Condra calls it the “young and dumb” syndrome.
“We don’t know that we should be afraid of certain guys or we shouldn’t play hard against certain guys,” the forward said. “We just play and we play our game.”
MacLean had no update on Methot’s status. Methot was injured after being hit by Brad Boyes during the second period against the Islanders and limped off the ice, but MacLean said he would be re-evaluated Thursday morning.
He didn’t rule out Methot for Thursday’s game against the Bruins. Should Methot be unable to play Mike Lundin will take his place in the lineup.
Notes: G Robin Lehner will get the start Thursday against Boston. … Alfredsson, Sergei Gonchar, Phillips and Guillaume Latendresse were all given the day off from practice, but are expected to play Thursday. … The Senators signed G Andrew Hammond to a two-year contract. Hammond just completed his season with Bowling Green.