Brady Tkachuk isn’t ready to throw in the towel on the Ottawa Senators season.
The captain isn’t making any bold predictions, but even though the Senators are 16 points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the final wild-card spot in the East with 35 games remaining, Tkachuk is confident his team can battle its way back into the playoff picture.
Speaking to Postmedia during a break in the National Hockey League all-star festivities in Toronto on Friday, Tkachuk says he’s hopeful everybody will enjoy the club’s 10-day pause and come back ready to make a push that will begin Feb. 10 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s definitely going to be nice to rest, regroup and recover, and get the mind right to be able to prove a lot of people wrong when we get get back,” Tkachuk said. “I know our whole group has belief in one another in what we can do and what we can accomplish.
“We’ve shown that of late and we’ve just got to build off it.”
The Senators posted a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games heading into the break, including a 4-3 overtime win over the Wings on Wednesday to close out the schedule.
Making the playoff isn’t impossible, but the Senators would have to go on a run of monumental proportions to make it happen.
How can the Senators prove people wrong?
“Claw our way back into it,” Tkachuk said. “There’s still time for us to get back into it. It can be difficult and not many teams have done it, but I have all the belief we can get it done as a group.
“We still believe in what we’re doing and we all have the same goals. It’s just about playing the game that we need to play and not fall into any negative or immature decision making on the ice.”
The best bet for the Senators is not to look at how far they’re out because that would be daunting.
“You just make yourself crazy if you look at the big picture,” Tkachuk said. “It’s all about the next game and being ready to be at your best when the time comes.”
They’ve shown progress under interim coach Jacques Martin and that has to continue. Tkachuk said Martin’s approach isn’t much different from the one the club had under D.J. Smith, but they aren’t exactly the same, either.
“It’s just a different perspective,” Tkachuk said. “There’s a lot of similarities in teachings, but it’s a perspective that’s different. The approach to different conversations are different, but both D.J. and Jacques are great coaches in their own way.
“It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve learned a lot already so far.”
Before heading somewhere warm with his family after the festivities wrap up Saturday at Scotiabank Arena, Tkachuk will enjoy every moment of his fourth trip to the all-star game.
His wife, Emma, is in town along with his parents — Keith and Chantal — Tkachuk’s in-laws, and sister, Taryn. Their uncle, Craig Oster, an agent with Newport Sports, lives in Toronto and has been spending time with family.
Being selected by Team Hughes in Thursday night’s all-star draft wasn’t exactly a surprise for Tkachuk. He has a long history with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes and his brother Jack, a forward for the New Jersey Devils, so there was a natural fit there.
Accompanied by award-winning musician Michael Buble, a huge Canucks fan, they selected four Vancouver players. The club also will be coached by Rick Tocchet, so there’ll be no shortage of familiar names on his bench when the three-on-three tournament starts Saturday.
Tkachuk was the sixth player chosen by the Hughes’ boys. That was fine in the end, but he was hoping they’d go off the board like the 2014 Hollywood movie Draft Day when Cleveland unexpectedly took Vontae Mack.
“I was waiting a little bit too long,” Tkachuk said. “I wanted to be Vontae Mack from Draft Day, but they didn’t really listen to me. (Quinn) told me he had to take his Vancouver boys.”
If nothing else, Tkachuk may be with the team that will have the most fun. Buble told a press conference after the draft that he was a little overhyped because he had taken psychedelic mushrooms.
“My buddy told me this is just a micro-dose of mushrooms and he was lying,” Buble said in a room full of reporters, who had a good laugh.
“So I’ll be honest, I thought I was in Blades of Glory for most of the time that I was out there until it sort of settled down. And then I realized holy (crap), I am at the NHL all-star game.”
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Tkachuk was happy to hear Buble was enjoying himself.
“I didn’t really see those comments and somebody told me about them this morning. I think that’s hilarious,” Tkachuk said. “I won’t be joining him, but I do think it’s funny that he shared that.”
The first Senators player to attend four all-star games, Tkachuk is just going to enjoy the weekend.
“It’s been good. It’s a good opportunity for my family to come in and to spend time with some old teammates. It’d be nice to be in a sunny place but it’s great to see everybody,” Tkachuk said.