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Senators won't overlook struggling Sabres

Wednesday, 14.11.2007 / 4:04 PM / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
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Senators won\'t overlook struggling Sabres
The Ottawa Senators surely know how the Buffalo Sabres feel.

And that being said, there’s not a chance the Senators will look past their struggling Northeast Division rivals when the two teams square off at Scotiabank Place on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200).

The Sabres, who were rocked by the free-agent defections of centres Daniel Brière and Chris Drury over the summer, have stumbled out of the gate with a 6-9-1 record that has landed them in the Northeast basement. Ottawa, meanwhile, is soaring at 14-2-0 – the best mark in the National Hockey League.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson discusses strategy with Chris Neil during practice Wednesday at Scotiabank Place.
Ironically, it’s a complete role reversal from a year ago, when the Sens were fighting through a 6-9-1 start of their own and the Sabres were the wonder boys, posting a near-perfect 14-1-1 mark.

No wonder, then, that the Senators remain wary of the wounded Sabres.

“We know we’re playing a desperate hockey club,” said Senators centre Jason Spezza after practice Wednesday at Scotiabank Place. “We know how we felt last year when we were in that position … all they’re thinking about is trying to get out of their slump and win hockey games.
“They’re a dangerous hockey team.”

Added defenceman Wade Redden: “(The Sabres) have lost some key guys. They’ve been up and down – they’ve had some good games that I’ve seen on TV, and they’ve lost some tight ones. They definitely miss Drury and Brière, but they’ve got a good young team. They’re going to be working, I’m sure, to get going again.”

Senators coach John Paddock compared the Sabres’ plight to his own team’s a year ago, when the Senators were still trying to adjust to life without departed defenceman Zdeno Chara, among others. The Senators, of course, turned the corner in a major way, and stormed all the way to the Stanley Cup final.

Paddock sees the Sabres in a similar light, saying they’ll be “a club that’s going to be reckoned with” before the season is done.

“They’re a very formidable team, for sure,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how far behind they are at the moment, it’s a four-point difference at the end of the night.

“Let’s try to put the heat on more so than ever.”

The Senators plan to do it by sticking with what’s been a winning hand. After toying with the idea of splitting up his top line earlier in the week, Paddock had Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson back together in practice Wednesday. And that’s how they’ll line up against the Sabres.

“It’s the easiest thing for Jason to slide back into,” Paddock said in reference to Spezza’s six-game absence because of a groin injury. “The bigger question I asked myself was ‘why split up Heatley and Alfredsson?’ It’s just automatic to slide (Spezza) back in there.”

Spezza, of course, won’t be the one to disagree with that thought.

“We’ve had pretty good success together,” he said. “We can get right back to where we left off and continue to win games and continue to have success.”

And make no mistake about it. Much as the Sabres are desperate for wins, the Senators don’t exactly like the idea of helping the visitors’ cause.

“When you’re losing games, you’re never happy,” said Spezza. “Whether you’re a first-place team or a last-place team, losses all feel the same.”

Martin Gerber (11-1-0) will start in goal against the Sabres.




1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
3 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
4 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
5 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
6 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
7 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
8 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31


B. Ryan 43 12 21 7 33
E. Karlsson 46 11 22 -5 33
K. Turris 46 9 20 -8 29
M. Stone 44 11 15 9 26
M. Hoffman 43 16 9 19 25
C. MacArthur 45 13 11 -7 24
M. Zibanejad 44 11 12 1 23
D. Legwand 45 7 12 -4 19
A. Chiasson 43 7 10 -8 17
M. Michalek 42 6 9 -7 15
C. Anderson 13 11 7 .927 2.37
R. Lehner 6 7 2 .900 3.16