It’s never a good idea to read much into a practice.
If so, you’d think the Ottawa Senators – losers 4-2 to the New York Rangers in the first game of Round One – were now in even deeper trouble: missing their team captain, Daniel Alfredsson, missing the NHL’s top scoring defenceman Erik Karlsson, and even missing their designated enforcer Chris Neil.
All, it turns out, were just given a bye on the Senators workout at the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, overlooking the Hudson River.
All three were given the day off to rest and, presumably, heal up for Game 2, which goes at Madison Square Garden Saturday evening.
As the Senators had no New York Rangers to harass and attack them, no blueshirts to block their shots and, most significantly, no Henrik Lundqvist to try to beat in goal, the workout was considered quite successful.
Jason Spezza, the team’s best scorer who is expected and needed to put pucks behind the Rangers’ Lundqvist, said the team was more “focused” at this practice and, hopefully, distancing itself from the opening-night jitters that led to so many giveaways and poor passes.
“We feel like we can play better,” said Spezza.
“We hope to come out of here and get the split,” he added, saying Ottawa’s hopes now lie in winning the second of the two games, “and put the pressure on them.”
Games 3 and 4 will be played Monday and Wednesday evenings back in Ottawa.
The players seemed glad to have that first experience before a playoff crowd at MSG over with. “There’s some kind of relief,” said defenceman Sergei Gonchar, “but it’s obviously not a relief if you lose.”
“We have to get better,” said head Coach Paul MacLean.
There is much speculation around the team that, in order to take some of the Rangers’ attention away from the brilliant Karlsson, MacLean will reunite Alfredsson, Spezza and Milan Michalek in an effort to jumpstart the team’s sputtering offence.