OTTAWA - After losing three straight and watching a playoff spot slip from their grasp no one could blame the Ottawa Senators for feeling a little dejected.
Despite their recent struggles the team says it has no intention of letting all their hard work be for naught.
Through Feb. 18 to March 23 the posted an impressive 15-1-1 record to put themselves in the thick of a playoff race, but three straight losses has left them reeling.
"When you lose it's not a positive feeling in here, but we're trying to keep it as positive as we can right now," said Ottawa centre Mika Zibanejad. "We know we can do it. We've proven that before. I think all the hard work we've been doing to get us to this point we don't want to just waste it now."
Ottawa (37-26-12) now sits three points back of the eighth-place Bruins (8-25-13) and only have a one-point lead on the Florida Panthers (35-26-15), but do have a game in hand on each.
The Senators struggles coincided with those of Andrew Hammond. Hammond, making his NHL debut, had been an unheralded hero as he went 14-0-1 in his first 15 NHL starts, but the magic seemed to come to an end after being run into by San Jose's Logan Couture in a 5-2 win March 23. Despite saying he was fine to play it was clear Hammond was ailing as he was lit up for five goals on 22 shots by the New York Rangers before being pulled.
Craig Anderson, who had been sidelined with a hand injury, declared himself ready to play on the weekend. He fared no better, losing two straight starts. Anderson is now 1-2-1 in the only four starts he's made since Jan. 21, when he injured his hand. Anderson has allowed 14 goals in those four starts.
On Monday, Hammond admitted to dealing with a back injury, but declared himself ready to play.
With just seven games remaining, three at home, four on the road, the Senators have little room for error.
Ottawa's head coach Dave Cameron said he had yet to make a decision on who would get the start against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.
Cameron has no issues with either goaltender's performances, but needs the team to return to the structure that made them so successful.
"When we got on this thing everybody wanted to hype us up as the next coming," said Cameron. "We're not. We're not there yet. We're a good young team that's finding our way so to me this is all great experience. That's how I'm looking at it."
Players have no explanation for why they've struggled the past three games, but know they need to get better and quickly.
"The reality is we've got seven games left and they're all must wins at this point," said Bobby Ryan.
Notes: D Jared Cowen will once again be the odd-man out as Patrick Wiercioch will be back in the lineup Tuesday after sitting one game. C Zack Smith will also return to the lineup in favour of Colin Greening. Smith is expected to line up on the left side with Bobby Ryan and Mika Zibanejad.