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January 4, 2011
On The Beat
Temper, Temper

by John Perrotto

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The Senators are having problems scoring goals and the Sharks are having problems allowing goals. The shortcomings have led to short tempers in both teams' dressing rooms.

Veteran winger Chris Neil called out his Senators' teammates last Saturday night after a 5-1 home loss to the Maple Leafs and goaltender James Reimer, who was making his NHL debut...

"I think you need every one to compete hard, finish checks, get pucks in deep," Neil said. "You need every one on the same page. It's like you think you have a switch and you can turn it on, but it doesn't work that way. You've got to go out and work hard every shift."

The Senators haven't been particularly adept at keeping the other team from scoring lately, either. Thus, the job security of Senators coach Cory Clouston has again been called into question and he seems worn out by his 16-19-5 team.

"Same old, same old," Clouston said. "We turn pucks over, and if you do that you need the save. Right now, it's a bad combination."

The Sharks are 21-14-5 but have been inconsistent all season and it reached a head for forward Ryane Clowe on Monday night following a 4-3 loss to the Canucks. What really had Clowe upset was how the Canucks were able to put 47 shots on goal a night after they had played in the high altitude of Denver.

"We're a funny team sometimes," he started. "They're not afraid to play a defensive game, they'll stick to it. We've got guys who want to do it occasionally--not all the time, though, because that's hard work. And when you work hard, you win, and you feel it after a game. I can guarantee you right now there are guys who don't feel that tired after this game."

Clowe wouldn't name any names of players who he felt were slacking. However, it seemed clear that his frustration was aimed at the Shark's skilled players.

"I think it's individually right now, mentally," Clowe said. "Do you want to score four goals or do you want to win a game? Are you happy losing with five goalsólosing 6-5 maybe? Or when we win 1-0 in LA, are guys happy? I don't know. Do we want to score goals and get points? I don't know, but we've got to figure it out. It probably has to come from leadership. It's frustrating. I'm [ticked] off, that's for sure."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan, though, says he isn't concerned about his team's play or attitude.

"I thought we had our share of opportunities in the offensive zone," McLellan said. "We didn't get it by the goaltender, and that's the difference right now between the first place team overall in the league and a team that's trying to work real hard to get there."

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The Predators have won their last two games after losing their previous five, the streakiness indicative of how they have played this season in compiling a 19-13-6 record. Thus, defenseman Shea Weber's main objective in his first season as captain has has been to keep his team on an even keel.

"I know it is tough to do that, especially when you are losing," Weber said. "When things are going well, obviously, it is easy to be comfortable and confident. On the other hand when things aren't going so well, guys are squeezing their sticks and doubting themselves a little bit."

Coach Barry Trotz feels Weber and the Predators' other leaders have done a good job despite the ups and downs.

"I think he has been tremendous in the way that he has handled this," Trotz said. "One thing that is tough with Webs is he internalizes things more. We've had a lot of adversity. I don't know if anybody has noticed that. But we are handling it pretty good. We have been pretty even-keeled. We are just trying to put people in the right situations to find a way to win. We have a good accountability in our room."

All three of the Predators' captains are defensemen, which is rather unusual. Ryan Suter has been one alternate captain all season and Francis Bouillon has been serving as the other recently while left wing Steve Sullivan has been sidelined by injury.

"Most teams have a top scorer wearing an 'A'. It is probably a little bit of a rarity," Trotz said. "Weber and Suter are tremendous players, and they have grown as leaders. Frankie Bouillon has done a good job of carrying the 'A'."

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Sunday marked the one year anniversary of Davis Payne replacing Andy Murray as the Blues' coach.

Payne has compiled a 43-28-9 record during that span. However, he has spent little time reflecting on his tenure.

"It's hard for me to take a look at it one year, because this is in no way a stopping point, a reflection point in my mind," Payne said.

There have been seven coaching changes in the NHL since Payne took over but he certainly doesn't have to worry about his job security as the Blue are 20-13-5 this season. Forward Brad Boyes feels Payne has helped give the Blues an identity.

"We're a simple, hard working team, responsible defensively and don't give up too much," Boyes said. "That's the way we've been playing."

Payne isn't one to take credit. However, he is happy with the way the Blues' players have responded to him.

"What you take the most enjoyment out of it is where we've come from in a year as a team, and what we've come through and how we understand that we need to play," Payne said. "Guys believe in that. They believe in how we're going to do this. You take a great deal of pride in that these guys are going to work for each other. You can see we're right there when we play our kind of hockey the right away, we can compete against anybody."

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The Maple Leafs seem on their way to missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season as they are in 13th place in the Eastern Conference.

One of the Maple Leafs' problems is they are 6-9 in one goal games, something that has been a bugaboo throughout their playoff drought. When the Maple Leafs lost 2-1 at home to the Bruins, it marked their 50th one goal loss since Ron Wilson became coach prior to the 2008-09 season.

"Bottom line, we're right there and we have to find a way," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "Good teams do that, playoffs teams do that."

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