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Hockey Ottawa Senators hope road trip can provide reprieve from trade talk as deadline looms

Ottawa Senators centre Matt Duchene, left, celebrates his goal with teammate Mark Stone during the third period of a game against the Colorado Avalanche, in Ottawa, on Jan. 16, 2019.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

There’s a good chance the Senators’ roster will look significantly different by the time the team returns to Ottawa from its four-game road trip.

Any or all of impact players Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel could soon be on the move as the Feb. 25 trade deadline approaches. Magnus Paajarvi and Anders Nilsson are also set to become unrestricted free agents and could be dealt.

“I would say there’s a lot of guys carrying a bigger suitcase,” Senators forward Bobby Ryan said. “You take it for what it is because it’s that time of year and we’re in a results driven business and we’re not getting them. You feel for the guys who are really going through it, but that being said you’ve still got to go to work and still get to the rink and get the job done.”

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The Senators start the journey with a game Thursday night in Detroit before moving on to Winnipeg, Chicago and New Jersey. Their next home game is against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb.22 and players are hopeful the trip can serve as a bit of a distraction from all the trade talk.

“The good news is we’ll be out of Canada for most of it so you’re not going to see it every time you turn the TV on, and those guys aren’t going to hear it and be part of it every second of every day,” Ryan said. “There will be some relief in that sense, but I can’t imagine what the three that are really in the middle of it are going through. You just try to be a good teammate and answer questions if they have them, if not you let them go about their business.”

Added defenceman Dylan DeMelo: “It will be good to get on the road and hang with the guys and get away from the TV and stuff like that. I think the guys are doing a good job being professionals, but being on the road is maybe a bit of an excuse to stay away from the outside noise. It will be on all of us to stay focused and keep it to business as usual.”

The Senators (21-30-5) sit dead last in the standings, which usually means change is inevitable, but the question remains how big will the changes be. Losing any combination of Stone, Duchene or Dzingel will have a significant impact.

Stone leads the Senators in scoring with 26 goals and 31 assists, while Duchene is second with 25 goals and 28 assists. Both are alternate captains and provide leadership that would be hard to replace. Dzingel is fourth in team scoring with 21 goals and 20 assists and has developed into a solid top-six forward.

“I think we’ve done a good job dealing with all the speculation and the guys are doing a good job keeping the distractions outside the room,” forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “We have a lot of guys who’ve been through trade deadlines before and we’re making sure to help the younger ones deal with the distraction of it all.”

Pageau understands changes are inevitable and players have difficult choices to make, but says the group will deal with whatever happens as a team.

“We’re a very tight group this year and we support each other regardless of what’s going on whether it’s stuff on the ice or off and that’s exactly how we’re going to deal with this road trip and anything that happens.”

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