The Ottawa Senators begin the stretch run to the playoffs in earnest on Thursday night when they play host to an old friend with a chance to put their hopes of a playoff spot on track.
The Senators have one home game against the Detroit Red Wings before heading out on the road for a Western Canadian road trip featuring the Heritage Classic in Vancouver, followed by stops in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg. That 5 game sequence will go a long way in determining where the Senators stand going forward, and the trade deadline happens to come smack dab in the middle of the trip, between Edmonton and Calgary.
The first 5 games are all winnable contests, and with the Senators sitting a point back of the Red Wings it will give them an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the chase pack. They need to put some consistent performances together and avoid the one step forward, one step back dance routine that they have been in for most of the year. During the Olympics I outlined a list of 5 things that need to happen down the stretch for the Senators to be successful, and that starts Thursday.
The Wings are limping in, will have played the night before and are far less than 100%. They had a lot of players playing deep into the Olympics, and should be tired while a majority of the Senators should be rested and reinvigorated.
If they should somehow drop the first 3 games of this segment, then it might mean some changes come at the deadline and some bodies might be moved, and others brought in.
The Senators have muddled along this season, but now is the time to make a statement, before it is too late and they run out of racetrack.