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Ottawa Senators searching for answers to fix struggles on home ice

Montreal Canadiens left wing Charles Hudon (54) celebrates a goal with centre Tomas Plekanec (14) and right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) as Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (61) looks on during first period NHL hockey action in Ottawa on Monday Oct. 30, 2017. Home ice is supposed to be an advantage, but it's been anything but for the  Senators. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Montreal Canadiens left wing Charles Hudon (54) celebrates a goal with centre Tomas Plekanec (14) and right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) as Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (61) looks on during first period NHL hockey action in Ottawa on Monday Oct. 30, 2017. Home ice is supposed to be an advantage, but it's been anything but for the Senators. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Home ice hasn't exactly been an advantage for the Ottawa Senators this season.

After eight games the Senators are just 2-2-4 in the confines of the Canadian Tire Centre. In comparison, Ottawa is 3-0-1 on the road.

No one fully understands why the Senators are struggling at home right now, but the players know they need to find a way to rectify things as soon as possible.

"If we knew what it was we wouldn't be doing it," said Dion Phaneuf. "I just know the results are better on the road and for some reason we play stronger games on the road. It's something that we know we have to be better at home and something we have to address and we're going to work on it."

With just two games remaining at home before a week-long trip to Sweden, the Senators would like to head to Europe feeling good about their game.

"We realize it's an issue and so I think we need to prepare better," said Derick Brassard. "On the road you kind of all get ready together compared to when you're at home everyone does their own thing and has different things to deal with, so I just think that individually we all need to come to the rink better prepared to play."

An added area of concern for the Senators of late has been their goals-against-average. What started out as a position of strength has taken a dramatic shift in the past couple weeks.

Strangely enough things took a downward swing when captain Erik Karlsson returned to the lineup Oct. 17.

Since Karlsson's return the Senators have gone from first overall in GAA (1.52) to tied for 18th (3.08), giving up 29 goals in regulation through their last seven games. Ottawa had given up just eight goals in its first five games.

"It's a priority," said Senators coach Guy Boucher. "If you're not in the top 10 defensively, we're not going to make the playoffs — period.

"It's everybody. It's a whole team thing, goalies, defencemen, forwards. It's a trend that can't continue. It's great to score goals, but if you're going to score goals because you're not as good defensively then you're not going in the right direction so we want to make sure that we're much better at that (Thursday)."

Much of Ottawa's success comes from playing within its structure and sticking to Boucher's system.

The Senators were reminded how badly things can go when they stray from their defensive structure in an 8-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

"Our success is hand-in-hand with how well we play the system," said Zack Smith. "Our system is meant to limit chances against and then you create offensive chances through playing well defensively. If you're cutting corners or cheating that's where you have breakdowns and we've had that problem the past couple weeks."

The Senators have also been dealing with various injuries leading to lineup changes. Smith said that, valid or not, it definitely had an impact.

Ottawa should get some reinforcement for Thursday's game against the Detroit Red Wings as Kyle Turris is expected to be back in the lineup after missing the last three games with a virus, but defenceman Mark Borowiecki will likely miss his second straight game due to an illness.

Craig Anderson will get the start.

Notes: Boucher brought his daughter, Naomi, to the rink for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Naomi, who plays hockey, got on the ice at the end of practice and sat in on her father's media availability.

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