Asked today what he wanted to see out of his team in the last three games, Canes coach Kirk Muller didn't hedge or hesitate.
"Three wins," he said.
The Canes fell out of playoff contention Friday with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets, then flatlined Saturday and lost 5-0 to the New Jersey Devils. The Devils' game may have been understandable, an emotional release, but Muller wants a strong finish in the final three games -- starting tomorrow in Ottawa -- to set the tone for next season.
"Not to dwell on the last game, but it just shows that teams are not going to feel sorry for us," Muller said. "What's important is how we approach these three games. I think we've done a lot of positive things here and we want to finish on a good note. We want to go up and play hard, do all the right things, play the right way ...
"It's important to what we're about. Whether you're playing cards or whatever you're doing you always want to win. But it's the way you play the game that's we're looking at. The easy thing is not to play at our capabilities. ... What I want to see is guys fighting through this and pride and finishing up the right way."
Cam Ward will be back in net for the Sens, Muller said. The Canes play their home finale Thursday against Montreal, but Muller said no decision had been made on the starting goaltender for the Canadiens game or the season-ender Saturday against Florida.
Muller said many of the same things about his team Saturday morning before the New Jersey game. New Jersey led 1-0 after the first period after a late power-play goal, but broke it open in the second period and rolled from there.
Muller said he expected the letdown to be a one-game thing, saying, "We've been pretty good about bouncing back. The other night (against Winnipeg) was a real emotional crush, when you wake up every day and you push. And I think our guys have done that, to try and win every night for a long time now.
"We've kind of been in playoff mode for a while, then it was like an elimination from the playoffs. It's tough. I look at it as that's how much they wanted to make it."
Muller put his team through a generally intense but spirited 50-minute practice today at PNC Arena.
"We had a good little life today, back at it," he said. "We want to go up to Ottawa, we have a lot of Ontario boys, and we want to do well. We want to win that hockey game."
Forward Andreas Nodl (upper-body injury) was not at today's practice. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek continues to practice with the team but has not played since March 17 against Minnesota, missing the last seven games.
There were no line changes or defensive changes from the last game. Eric Staal centered Jiri Tlusty and Chad LaRose, Jussi Jokinen centered Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu, Brandon Sutter was at center with Drayson Bowman and Pat Dwyer, and Tim Brent centered Derek Joslin and Anthony Stewart.
The Sens (41-28-10) have won their last four games and clinched a playoff berth.