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Ottawa Senators winning with defence as offence dries up

Ottawa Senators forward Zack Smith (15) celebrates his goal against the Los Angeles Kings with teammates Mark Stone (61) and Marc Methot (3) on Nov. 11, 2016.

Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

There are positives in the Ottawa Senators' game right now, but offence isn't one of them.

Ottawa has gone nine straight games scoring two goals or less, going 1-for-26 on the power play over that span. They sit 27th in the league with 35 goals and have scored the fewest power play goals in the league with four.

But with a 9-5-1 record, the Senators say they will not sacrifice defence for a little offence, no matter how badly they want to score goals.

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"If you cheat defensively to try to go on offence, you're not better, you're worse," head coach Guy Boucher said Monday.

From the start of training camp, Boucher emphasized the need to focus on the Senators' defensive structure after last year's countless breakdowns, and it's paid off.

The Senators have allowed just 35 goals to sit sixth in the league and haven't given up a power play goal in their past 10 games.

"We had to. We needed to get better more so in that area than the offensive side," forward Bobby Ryan said. "If you're bad defensively you have no chance in the league and we recognized that and we started with that from day one. We got a great foundation through camp and we applied it because the start that we're having is because of it obviously, as the offence isn't doing it."

Ryan, who hasn't scored in his past seven games, admits a number of players are frustrated by the offensive drought.

"I wish I had an answer for you," Ryan said. "We all leave the rink and think about it and text each other about the opportunities that we had and it's just a vicious cycle."

Perhaps no one is feeling more pressure than Derick Brassard. Acquired from the New York Rangers for Mika Zibanejad this past summer, Brassard, who grew up just outside Ottawa, was touted as the left-handed centre Ottawa desperately needed.

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However, things haven't gone as expected to this point.

Brassard scored his one and only goal on opening night and is clearly struggling. Monday, Brassard was still on the ice long after his peers had left and then had a lengthy conversation with assistant coach Martin Raymond.

"I like the way I'm playing," Brassard said. "The last three weeks I've had a lot of scoring chances, but for whatever reason nothing is clicking or going in.

"When it's not coming and you feel like you're playing well and you have scoring chances it's the most frustrating thing."

Boucher juggled his lines in an effort to create a spark as the Senators prepare to take on the Philadelphia Flyers (7-7-2) Tuesday night.

While Boucher is hopeful the changes will reap rewards, he says more important is the players' willingness to score the dirty goals.

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"What we do around the net when the shots are taken, that's where it's deficient," Boucher said. It's deficient because the screen is not in front of the goaltender, because the rebound is not fought for, because the minute we get a second chance we're out of the picture, we need to be better in there."

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