Ottawa optimistic after loss in opener

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Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot has been around the block in hockey.

At 6 feet 3 he is one of the Senators' big, mobile defensemen and not easily flustered. But even he felt a twinge of the jitters creep into his game in Ottawa's 4-1 loss Tuesday against the Penguins.

"I felt it. I felt it the first couple shifts. I felt a little tight, maybe a little nervous," Methot said. "You're so excited and looking forward to getting in the game you might be gripping your stick maybe a little too hard. Eventually, you calm down, you get those shifts under your belt and you feel good."

Nine players and both goaltenders worked out Wednesday in the Senators' optional skate, the first of two days in Pittsburgh before Game 2 Friday.

The gap between games has left a lot of time for reflecting.

Was it the Penguins' all-star lineup that did it? The pressure of the second round?

"Between their lineup maybe a little bit, but mostly because a lot of guys haven't been in this position before at least at the NHL level," Methot said. "There's a lot of pressure on some of the players here to perform and, when you're in the second round, you're even more under the spotlight.

"Now that we got the jitters out especially with a lot of the young guys, even myself, we're a confident group. We know we can hang in there with them."

The Senators have some significant youth in the lineup, including four players with no playoff experience before the Montreal series. When the season opened the team's average age was 27.6, which falls below the league average of 28.2.

"Yeah, we're still a young team ... every game that we play in the playoffs is a great opportunity for our team to continue to grow and [Tuesday] night wasn't any different," coach Paul MacLean said. "The first round, with the physicality, was important to go through that. Second round, it's a little different. Everything goes up another mile per hour."

Agreed, said left winger Colin Greening, in his second full season with the team.

"It's a faster pace, for sure. When you get out there, the crowd was pretty loud and everyone was feeding off the energy. Right from the get-go, they came out pretty strong," Greening said. "To be honest. I felt like we had a good first shift. Tough way to start ... but that's when you go from Round 1 to Round 2 there's that bump in energy."

Greening said that was felt most in the physical aspect of the game.

"Honestly, they out-hit us, and I think that's the most important stat you look at," Greening said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be a thundering, punishing hit, but it's just consistency, and that's what they did all game, more than us."

MacLean said defenseman Eric Gryba (upper body injury) has not been ruled out of the game Friday, and center Jason Spezza still is skating in Ottawa, but no other update was offered.

He also spoke like a man who expects those jitters to be long gone by the time the puck drops Friday night.

"If you don't continue to raise your level of play, you end up not getting the opportunity to play" MacLean said. "Now, in Game 2 our players have seen it, their level of play and competitive level will rise up, and we'll see if it's enough."

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Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez.


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