Defenceman Marc Methot and the Ottawa Senators are hoping a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs will be the cure to what ails them.
Ottawa has lost four straight at home and is desperate to find some much-needed consistency. The hope is an emotional, physical game with Toronto will help kick-start that.
“It’s another divisional opponent and it’s a big game for us,” said Methot. “We always know what the atmosphere is against these guys so it’s going to be interesting.
“It’s just key that we start to string together a few wins. It seems like we’re playing 50-50 all the time. We get one win, then follow that up with a loss. We just have to try and change that trend because we’re not going to make the playoffs playing like that.”
Ottawa is coming off a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Senators played well enough to win but was again plagued by turnovers and giveaways, often in their own end.
“No matter who we’re playing it’s a huge game for us,” said Senators forward Clarke MacArthur, a former Maple Leaf. “We kind of turned the page in Florida and then we go into Tampa and I kind of have mixed feelings about that game as I thought we did things right.
“(Goalie Ben) Bishop played well and made saves when he had to, but at the same time they got some key chances from key players right in front of the net. We’ve got to learn to tighten that up. It will be win a few, lose a few, win a few until we get that figured out.”
Ottawa has won just three of its past 10 games overall. And Toronto comes in having snapped a five-game losing streak Thursday night with a 3-2 overtime win over the Dallas Stars.
Ottawa (11-14-4, 26 points) trails Toronto (15-11-3, 33 points) in the Atlantic Division standings. Methot said the Senators realize the importance of picking up points against a division rival.
“We’re still able to jump right back into it,” he said. “We’re only a few points off and I think that’s the difference between winning a few games in a row and going back and forth like that for the rest of the year.”
MacArthur said the Senators believe they’re better than their record but realize they need to start proving it.
“I think we haven’t begun to tap into what we can do here,” he said. “I know it’s getting to that point where you’re almost at 30 games here but I feel like there’s no question . . . I know we have another gear or two.
“We just have to string a few together here.”
MacArthur said if the Senators can play better as a whole they’ll likely see their fortunes improve significantly. He added it’s unfair to expect Ottawa’s goalies to always come up big.
“You can’t expect him to make those ungodly saves every single night,” he said. “We need to tighten it up right in the middle there.”
Despite its struggles, Ottawa has performed well within its division, posting a 7-1-1 record. What’s more, they’ve played some of their best hockey in emotional games.
“I think (division play) is what keeps us in it here,” said Senators captain Jason Spezza. “We have a lot of divisional games coming up and an opportunity to make up ground on teams that are ahead of us so we have to try and get some wins in these games.”
Methot admits there’s no better time than now for Ottawa to feed off the emotion that comes from playing Toronto.
“It’s a big game that we always get up for,” he said. “Anytime you hear that it’s the Battle of Ontario you know it’s going to be a physical matchup.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotion in that game so it can only be to our benefit.”
Notes: Craig Anderson will start in goal Saturday . . . Cory Conacher was given a maintenance day but is expected to play Saturday . . . The Senators announced the addition of Cisco Stadium Vision to the Canadian Tire Centre on Friday. Canadian Tire Centre will be the first NHL arena in Canada to incorporate the digital video and content distribution system that delivers high-definition video and digital content.