The Ottawa Senators say they need to treat their remaining 15 games as playoff matches if they want to have a chance to play in the actual post-season.
The Senators have won only two of their last nine heading into Tuesday night's game against the slumping New York Rangers at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Rangers currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Goalie Robin Lehner, who gets the start tonight, said every game from here on in is the biggest game for them.
"That's a good challenge for us to see if we can step up, right now all the guys are trying very hard, no one is quitting, but it's just not going our way," said Lehner.
Captain Jason Spezza said moral victories are no longer good enough.
"This time of year there is no room for the moral victories and the bouncing back. I don't care if we play terrible and find a way to win, I'd take that over playing good and outplaying a team [and losing]," said Spezza.
Some fans not optimistic
Some fans in Ottawa have already conceded the season, which started with such promise, may be lost.
Season-ticket holder Shaila Anwar said the Senators playoff hopes were — like Carey Elwes's character in the Princess Bride — 'mostly dead,' but not all the way dead.
"It's kind of a mess this year the season looks like it is over," said Anwar. "It doesn't look good."
Bernard Mciver, the general manager of Three Brewers Kanata, understands the pessimism but is still hopeful of a turnaround that might bring more playoff customers to his pub.
"It means everything for us, we are in the heart of Sens country," said Mciver. "I am concerned, but let's keep our fingers crossed."
For the Senators to have a shot at making it into the playoffs, most observers believe the team will need to win 12 of their remaining 15 games.