Giroux leads the way as Senators continue winning streak in Wednesday’s game against Rangers


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Ottawa Senators winger Claude Giroux insists he doesn’t look at the NHL standings and hit the refresh button over and over again.

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« Not right now, it’s not too pretty, » Giroux said, smiling slightly, after Tuesday’s practice at the Canadian Tire Centre. « After a few more wins, maybe I’ll take a look. »

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It’s a healthy state of mind, of course.

Even after ending their West Road swing with a pair of wins — including Giroux’s overtime winner in Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings — the Senators are looking, high, on a potential playoff spot.

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With an 8-12-1 record, the Senators were eight points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wildcard spot going into Wednesday’s games.

In the short term, however, the big question for the Senators is whether they use the momentum from the solid finish to the road trip in a series of more consistent efforts night after night.

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The Senators have won back-to-back games for the first time since their four-game streak Oct. 18-24 and the mood is more upbeat.

Obviously, they took home a little less emotional baggage.

The upcoming schedule is packed, including home and away games against the New York Rangers on Wednesday and Friday and a visit Saturday from the San Jose Sharks, but they’re breathing a little easier.

« We talked about it this morning, 15 games or something like that in 30 days, » Giroux said. « There are a lot of games, but sometimes it’s a good thing when you’re trying to get a few wins in a row. This stretch here, it’s important whether it’s a loss or a win, whatever happens, prepare for the next one.

It’s easy to say, but difficult to manage, especially for a team where most of the top players are in their first years in the NHL. It is natural for emotions to rise or fall, depending on overnight results.

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In this regard, however, Giroux played a vital role in both telling and showing how to maintain focus in close games.

The victory over Los Angeles was a good example.

While the breakaway goal in overtime was a beauty – he was all alone behind the Kings defense in the neutral zone when Tim Stutzle’s backhand pass from the Senators’ goal line found him – the Senators managed to fight their way to overtime.

The Senators felt they had played well enough to take the lead in the third period, but they didn’t panic pushing to force a goal. It was a problem earlier in the season when the Senators gave up too many games with their own timely mistakes.

« Giroux is clearly a guy who’s been there and communicated that to the guys, » coach DJ Smith said.

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“With six minutes left (in the third period), the puck is against the wall and he’s doing everything he can to get it out. He’s not looking to make a high-end game at this point. He knows that if you’re tied and there are only a few minutes left (in regulation time), going into overtime isn’t a bad thing. You get your point and have a chance for two.

Smith says it’s a matter of a veteran assessing the circumstances and reacting accordingly.

« If you have the opportunity to make a play and win the game, absolutely, but you’re not playing high-risk hockey to spit out that point, » he said.

Smith says there’s now « a belief » that the team can win close games if they maintain the same approach from start to finish.

« We were in a position where we felt like we were playing good hockey, including against Vegas (earlier in the trip) and we didn’t get the results, » Giroux said. « The next two games, we stayed with the schedule, played the way we wanted. »

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The skill of the Senators was illustrated on the decisive goal in overtime. Stutzle fought off Kings Anze Kopitar’s cross control before throwing the brilliant out pass. From there, Giroux beat Jonathan Quick with a nifty deke.

« I saw when he beat his guy up and tried to scream as loud as I could, » Giroux said. “It was a great backhand pass. (Stutzle) had body position and even though he didn’t make the pass, I was stretching the ice, so he had room to skate.

Giroux now has nine goals and 11 assists in 21 games, third on the team in scoring behind captain Brady Tkachuk and Stutzle, but his contributions aren’t limited to his offensive touch.

“Any time you have a guy like that, you can’t buy that,” said defenseman Thomas Chabot, who played the last two games on the West Coast after a five-game absence with a concussion. . « The way he leaves everything on the ice every night, for so many young guys, who can lean on him and ask questions. »

General manager Pierre Dorion bought that experience — Giroux signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract as a free agent this summer — and from the start, it paid off.

« For me, he’s been a great veteran to have for these kids, » Smith said. « He never shows negative emotion with his body language. He says the right things and he’s really, really competitive.

kwarren@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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