OTTAWA — While avoiding conversations about their owner’s public complaints over attendance, the Ottawa Senators are attempting to do what they can to bring fans back to Canadian Tire Centre.
And that, of course, is get themselves back into the playoff race.
After the fifth-worst November (3-7-1) in franchise history and a December that saw the Senators win just one of their first six games, they are starting to show signs of life.
By defeating the visiting Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, the Senators (11-13-7) will have their first three-game winning streak since the second week of the season.
What remains to be seen is how many will be on hand to witness the attempt after almost 34,000 paid inflated ticket prices to watch Saturday’s 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL’s first outdoor game of the season — and after Senators owner Eugene Melnyk suggested he could relocate the team or dramatically cut the payroll if attendance doesn’t improve.
“That’s none of our business,” team captain Erik Karlsson said Monday when asked about Melnyk’s comments. “That’s what he worries about. We worry about playing hockey. That’s all we can control. That’s what we get paid to do. We show up here every day and do the best we can at what we do.”
Karlsson, the two-time Norris Trophy winner who has just one goal this season, did about everything anyone could ask in the victory over the Canadiens. Along with an assist on the game winner, he saw a season-high 32:55 of ice time, was a plus-3, had eight blocked shots and seven shots on goal.
It was a performance that suggested his future is not his focus even though he is lined up to become one of the league’s highest paid players when his contract expires at the end of next season.
“I’m happy right now, happy where I’m at, worried about making sure we get out of this slump we’re in right now and making the postseason this season,” Karlsson said.
The Wild (17-13-3) will be playing its second of a four-game road trip that started with Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Chicago.
With No. 1 goalie Devan Dubnyk sidelined indefinitely by a lower body injury, Minnesota is relying on Alex Stalock between the pipes. Stalock stopped a season-high 42 shots in Saturday’s setback, and in five game since Dec. 10 has commendable numbers, with a 3-2-0 record that includes one shutout to go along with a 2.10 goals against average and a .935 save percentage.
“He was awesome again tonight,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau told reports after the Chicago game. “The guy competes his (butt) off. You hopefully can get better results. This week, it’s not all doom and gloom. We were 2-2. We didn’t lose the week. We’ve got a chance to win two out of three before Christmas, or three out of three, depending on what goes on. And then we’ll be back at it.”
With just seven goals in its last four games, Minnesota needs to get going offensively.
Defenseman Matt Dumba has been carrying much of the load, scoring the lone goal Saturday to give him three in the last two games and five in the last eight.
“He’s probably the only one with offensive confidence right now,” Boudreau said. “What he’s doing is he’s starting to shoot the puck. He’s got a great shot. If he shoots the puck a lot he’s going to get a lot more of those.”
Senators coach Guy Boucher confirmed that Craig Anderson will get the chance to win his third straight on Tuesday, while winger Gabriel Dumont will sit with a foot injury. The team has recalled defenseman Ben Harpur from its AHL affiliate.