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Sens aim to extend winning Hab-it

Tuesday, 05.02.2008 / 2:30 PM / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
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Sens aim to extend winning Hab-it
So far this season, at least, the Ottawa Senators have had the Montreal Canadiens’ number.

But none of that diminishes the task at hand this week.

Tuesday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the two Northeast Division rivals kick off  a home-and-home series that could greatly change the face of the Eastern Conference standings by week’s end.

For the Senators, tonight’s game (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) represents a chance to widen their edge over the Habs – a gap that has slipped to a mere three points in recent weeks. A victory could also be a massive momentum builder for a team that has struggled without top guns Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley in the lineup, and won’t have either again tonight.

“For us, it’s a statement game when we’re missing Alfredsson and Heatley,” Senators head coach John Paddock said after the team’s pre-game skate at the Bell Centre on Tuesday. “But I think it’s an important game to show some passion and some urgency, and I think we will.

“I expect and there should be a sense of urgency because of who we’re playing and where we’re playing.”

The Senators and Canadiens haven’t played since Nov. 19, but will meet five more times before season’s end – including this Saturday at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Ottawa is 3-0 against the Habs this season and so, too, is goaltender Martin Gerber, who gets the starting nod tonight.

But despite all that, Paddock said the Senators are well aware of the challenge his troops will face tonight, regardless of who is or isn’t in the lineup.

“We’ve had respect for them from the start of the season,” he said. “The difference in the standings was the four-point games (the Senators won), so we knew who they were and what they were and that they were right there.”

The teams’ performance since their last meeting – at least in terms of victories – has been almost identical. Indeed, Paddock pointed out “since Nov. 19, when we beat them to go seven points up, they’ve won one more hockey game than us,”

“That doesn’t seem possible because we’ve been in the throes of a couple of slumps here, but they’ve won one more game than us and we’re still in first place.”

A Montreal sweep this week, though, could change all that and the Senators know it.

“It’s never good that a team’s closed the gap,” said Senators centre Jason Spezza. “We’ve got a couple of big games coming up this week. We’ve got these guys twice, they’re going to be gunning for us and they’re playing real well right now.

“If there’s ever a good time for a test and (gaining) a little confidence with a couple of wins, it’s right now.”

The Senators put themselves in this predicament with a 3-7-0 stretch of hockey over the last 10 games. But defenceman Wade Redden, for one, thinks the reduced comfort zone atop the conference and division standings might be just what’s needed for the team to pick up its overall game.

“I don’t think we want to have that comfortable feeling,” he said. “We’ve been on top of the conference all year. Our focus has to be finishing first – that’s our goal – but I think we also want to be playing well and getting our game where it needs to be.”

Around the boards

The Senators are still hopeful that Alfredsson (hip flexor) can return Thursday against the Florida Panthers. “I think he’s hoping to play Thursday, but I don’t think it’s a lock he’ll play Thursday,” said Paddock … Forwards Patrick Eaves (neck/shoulder) and Cody Bass (ankle) also won’t play tonight … About 1,000 tickets remain for Thursday’s visit by the Panthers to Scotiabank Place. Fewer than 50 tickets are left for Saturday’s rematch with the Canadiens.




1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
3 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
4 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
5 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
6 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
7 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
8 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52


E. Karlsson 82 20 54 -15 74
J. Spezza 75 23 43 -26 66
K. Turris 82 26 32 22 58
C. MacArthur 79 24 31 12 55
B. Ryan 70 23 25 7 48
A. Hemsky 75 13 30 -15 43
M. Michalek 82 17 22 -25 39
M. Zibanejad 69 16 17 -15 33
M. Methot 75 6 17 0 23
P. Wiercioch 53 4 19 -1 23
C. Anderson 25 16 8 .911 3.00
R. Lehner 12 15 6 .913 3.06