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The Ottawa Senators will attempt to sweep the Sunshine State this week.


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Easier said than done.

The Senators will open a three-game road trip against the Florida Panthers Tuesday night at the FLA Live Arena with a stop in Tampa on Thursday and the club has a lot of work ahead of it.

Following a 4-0 shutout victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday at home, the Senators traveled to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday and skated at Sunrise on Monday to prepare to face the Panthers, who have become one of the best teams in the league this season.

The Senators have won four of their last five games and while they have been helped by the strong assist from Anton Forsberg, the club has vastly improved their game on their own side. It took the senators a while to play confidently, but it finally seems like they have something.


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Everything has changed, including the club’s training habits.

“We had to find what works for us in terms of identity and the guys now know what is expected of them 100%,” coach DJ Smith told reporters in Sunrise on Monday. “The lines haven’t changed much and certainly with Tim (Stuetzle) in the center, he has given us a lot more depth there.

“With that, the players are used to their line mates and are constantly working harder in practice knowing that it makes you better at the game. We have focused a lot on that because your best players have to be your best players in practice. “

Stuetzle’s play in the center has passed the vision test, but the Senators need help in the middle with Shane Pinto and Colin White on the shelf due to shoulder surgery. The 19-year-old Stuetzle seems comfortable making the switch from the wing and that could change the dynamics going forward for the organization.


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Stuetzle has skated the last two games with speedy winger Alex Formenton and veteran Connor Brown, who plays a valuable role for this team.

“(Stuetzle) has a lot more puck and he’s not getting hit in his own zone,” Smith said. “He is capable of breaking through speed and he can create speed underneath, and the most important thing for us now is to work on his matchups. That is difficult for a young man who faces a veteran every night.

“It will continue to improve, it will continue to work on it and where it is now we couldn’t be happier.”

It also helps that the best players have been your best players lately. Captain Brady Tkachuk scored his first career hat-trick on Saturday and has helped carry the load with center Josh Norris and winger Drake Batherson over the course of the past few weeks.


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Substitute captain Thomas Chabot has been strong alongside Artem Zub and Nikita Zaitsev. Senators had to clean up their performance on their own end if they were to have any chance of long-term success and that has been the case on this stretch.

It seems that the 1-10-1 record that senators had in November when they were affected by COVID-19 is left behind.

“We’re understanding what it’s going to take us to win games and be competitive for 60 minutes,” veteran winger Austin Watson said. “When you go through that stage like we did, and we work hard to get out of it, but getting that first win to get out is always the hardest thing.

“Going into that (3-2 win) over Carolina (Dec. 2), it echoed how hard the guys have to work to win that game. The level of effort it takes with and away from the puck in this league is tough and we’re learning how to do (the job). “


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In some media circles, there is a lot of talk about Smith’s comments about the Senators shifting focus to development when asked by this newspaper why the decision was made to send veteran defender Michael Del Zotto to the club’s AHL affiliate. in Belleville on Saturday.

The way the Senators started the year is not what owner Eugene Melnyk, general manager Pierre Dorion, Smith or anyone else in the organization expected. Injuries damaged the depth of the club and the COVID-19 outbreak in the locker room was something that it took for players to recover from.

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Smith did not say in any way that the Senators have thrown in the towel this season, but he does mean that he will not hesitate to give young players the opportunity to develop in different situations. It didn’t work out with Del Zotto, 31, it happens, you turn the page and go in a different direction.

It appears that the senators have righted the ship and Del Zotto is not part of the solution.

“We played some tough teams in the last stretch,” Watson said. “You’ve taken little things from each of those games and we’re just trying to take advantage of it. We do not feel that we are going to go out here and not lose a game because that is not the reality, we are going to lose games.

“Being competitive, being in those one-goal games and continuing to play is going well for us.”

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Twitter: @sungarrioch



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