Saturday, December 1, 2007

new york senators

Midway through Friday's practice, Ottawa Senators coach John Paddock literally went back to the drawing board to emphasize team defence to his players. The message included an extended white board discussion on how to defend the scoring zones in and around the Senators' net.

During the Senators' five-game losing streak, they have allowed 21 goals against, an average of 4.2 per game.

In the opening 19 games, when Ottawa roared out out to a 16-3 start, it allowed only 39 goals, or a mere 2.05 goals each time out.

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Font:****After allowing four or more goals only once in the opening 19 contests, the Senators have allowed the opposition to hit that mark in four of the past five outings, including Thursday's 6-5 defeat to the Nashville Predators.

So, why has a Senators ship that was sailing so smoothly suddenly hit stormy waters?

Here's a look at five major trouble spots:

No. 1, Goaltending

Martin Gerber was the story of the opening six weeks.

When the Senators sailed into the Air Canada Centre on Nov. 17, Gerber was on top of the world, with a goals-against average of 1.75 and a .943 save percentage. When the Senators had breakdowns in front of him, Gerber was usually there to put a Band-Aid over the miscues, stealing at least two or three victories for the club with his solid and often times spectacular play.

Now that Gerber has suddenly lost his magic touch, allowing goals from sharp angles, off big rebounds and from miscommunication with his defencemen around the net, the numbers are bleak. He has allowed 14 goals on the past 85 shots he has faced over the last three games for a save percentage of .847, and has looked a lot like the Gerber who began the 2006-07 season. His overall goals-against average has ballooned to 2.38.

Paddock's decision to start Gerber today against the New York Rangers is a gamble, given that backup Ray Emery was decent in Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Islanders, his most solid outing of the year.

Emery, is, however, riding a personal four-game losing streak and allowed a couple of bad goals in his previous start, a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, which began the team's current five-game losing stretch.

No. 2, Communication

When defenceman Chris Phillips and Emery crossed signals leading to an own goal in the deciding game of the Stanley Cup final last June, it was considered a fluke, a once-in-a-million type play. Given the frequency of recent miscues around the net, however, poor communication is becoming a bigger issue.

The goalies are zigging while the players around them are zagging. Nashville's fifth goal Thursday came after Gerber mishandled the puck behind the net, leaving his defencemen vulnerable. Nashville's Jordin Tootoo passed the puck in front to Martin Gelinas, and Andrej Meszaros accidentally kicked the puck into his net while scrambling to get back into the play. In Wednesday's loss to the Islanders, Shean Donovan recovered a loose puck in front of Emery and took it behind his own net. After Donovan was stripped of the puck, Emery was slow to cover the post, allowing Mike Sillinger
Network) - The Ottawa Senators will try to end their longest losing streak of the season this afternoon when they wrap up a brief two-game homestand against the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place.

The Senators began the campaign with an amazing 15-2-0 record, but have since dropped six of seven games, including the current five-game skid. Ottawa still leads the Eastern Conference with 34 points.

Ottawa's latest setback came on Thursday, as it dropped a 6-5 decision to the Nashville Predators. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson each had a goal and an assist, and Martin Gerber stopped 29-of-35 shots in a losing cause for the Senators, who also dropped five in a row from October 28 to November 8 of last season.

A loss tonight would give the Senators their first six-game slide since dropping seven in a row from February 22-March 9, 1996.

To make matters worse defenseman Anton Volchenkov suffered a broken finger in the loss and is expected to be sidelined the next four weeks.

The Senators, who will hit the road for the next five games, are 10-4-1 as the host team this season.

New York, meanwhile, snapped a two-game losing streak on Thursday, as Jaromir Jagr and linemates Brandon Dubinsky and Martin Straka ignited the Rangers with a first-period goal and also capped the scoring late in the third period in a 4-2 win over the rival Islanders at Madison Square Garden.

Jagr scored in the opening period and Dubinsky's late tally was preceded by goals from Chris Drury and Scott Gomez for the Rangers, who beat their hated cross-town rivals for the first time this season (1-3-0).

Drury is now one goal away from 200 for his career.

Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves for the Rangers, who closed the season's second month with a strong 10-3-1 record and with the victory moved back into a first-place tie atop the Atlantic Division with Philadelphia.

The Rangers, who are 5-5-2 away from MSG this season, will return home for a pair of games against Carolina and Toronto following today's tilt.

Ottawa has blanked the Rangers the last two times it has faced them, including a 2-0 win on October 6. Since February 2003, the Senators have outscored the Rangers 32-12 at home en route to an 8-1-0 record.

The Senators have won 15 of the last 18 meetings overall, including five in a row.


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