OTTAWA — On the way home from their longest road trip of the season, the Ottawa Senators scraped bottom and suffered more damage.
When they face the New York Rangers at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday, the Senators will be just 24 hours removed from their fifth straight loss, a 3-2 setback at the hands of the Eastern Conference’s last-place Buffalo Sabres.
Over a seven-stop, 15-day tour that began Nov. 29 in Montreal, that left the Senators with a 1-5-1 record and just three points ahead of the Sabres. While their season is not yet a write-off, they are at a loss for answers.
“It’s been a tough road trip for us,” Senators center Derick Brassard said. “I think it’s time for us to go home, regroup, play in front of our fans. I’m not really sure what to say here. It’s not what we want, but at the end of the day, there’s not easy games in the NHL. It got proved tonight.”
The Senators (9-13-7) were third in the Atlantic Division with an 8-3-5 mark when returning from two games in Sweden. Since then, their wheels have found a ditch. In winning just one of their last 13 games, the Senators have been shut out in three of their last five.
“I don’t think anyone in here is going to run away from anything,” said Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy winner whose name is now included in trade rumors. “We know what it is. We know the situation that we put ourselves in. We’ve got to own up to it. We’ve got to come back to the rink tomorrow and be prepared to play, and try and figure something out here. Just like we have for the past three weeks here.
“I think we have a tight, good group of guys here that understand where we’re at and what we’re doing to ourselves. We’re trying everything we can to get out of it.”
The Rangers (16-11-3) were disappointed in their 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday, but they haven’t had many blips of late. New York is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games and clinging to the final wild-card spot in the East.
Backup goalie Ondrej Pavelec stopped 44 of 45 shots vs. Dallas for his second 40-save performance in a row. Coach Alain Vigneault, in fact, said Pavelec’s play was the only reason the Rangers salvaged a point.
“As an individual, you have to find a way to compete. And, even if you think you’re going, you need all five guys on the ice to be at the same level,” Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh told reporters. “In order for us to be successful, we can’t have three or four guys going and expect to win a game. So, in that aspect, I’m just thinking as a team here we collectively have to look at ourselves and make sure that we are playing the way that is expected of us, each individual.”
As for Wednesday’s goaltending matchup, it’s expected both No. 1 goalies — New York’s Henrik Lundqvist and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson — will be between the pipes in a familiar rivalry.
Lundqvist shut out the Senators 3-0 when the two squared off in the only previous meeting this season, Nov. 19 at Madison Square Garden. Anderson led his team to a six-game victory over Lundqvist and the Rangers in the second-round of last spring’s playoffs.
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