Sens won't fall into Florida trap
Ottawa wary of struggling Panthers in road test tonight
|Daniel Alfredsson and the Senators expect to face an aggressive Panthers team tonight in Sunrise, Fla., in the opener of their two-game road trip (Getty Images).
Their diverse records suggest the Ottawa Senators can probably bank on cashing in a pair of points at the BankAtlantic Center.
But the Senators feel they have plenty of reasons to be wary of tonight's matchup with the struggling Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla. (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200). Even if their 5-2-2 record is a far cry better than that of the Panthers (2-6-1), who rank 14th among 15 teams in the Eastern Conference standings.
Let's just say the memory of last Thursday's home-ice meeting with the Nashville Predators – the visitors came into Scotiabank Place riding a six-game winless streak but prevailed 6-5 in overtime – is still very fresh in mind.
"We were saying the same kind of thing about Nashville and look at the game we got ... it was kind of run-and-gun hockey," said goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who'll make his eighth start of the season tonight. "They're all good players in this league and we take everyone seriously. There's some quality players there (in Florida) and they have a great goaltender (Tomas Vokoun).
"They're all hard, especially on the road, and we've got to make sure we play well and start well, then we'll take it from there."
The Senators also haven't likely forgotten the trouble they had with the pesky Panthers last season. Florida won three of four games between the teams in 2008-09, with the Senators' lone victory (3-1 on Oct. 30, 2008) coming at the BankAtlantic Center almost a year ago.
"For us, it's been two solid road games," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We've done a good job on the road keeping it simple and waiting for our chances. It's going to be no different this time around.
"The first goal is always important to force the other team a little bit, maybe even more so on the road. But we've got to go out and play smart. Hopefully, we'll draw a few penalties and maybe score on the power play to get us going. (We need to) just play a steady game and at the same time, be aggressive when we have the chance."
Figure on the Senators' back end getting a boost tonight with the return to the lineup of veteran Filip Kuba, who has missed the previous eight games with a lower-body injury. It'll be his first game action since the Oct. 3 season-opener against the Rangers in New York.
"He's a big body and he plays a lot of minutes," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of adding Kuba to the lineup. "He's a steadying force on the back end. I know sometimes it's not easy (coming back) when it's been a nagging injury in his groin and hip area. But he's worked hard and he looks like he's bang on as far as practices are concerned."
Around the boards
Veteran forward Shean Donovan is being inserted into the lineup tonight, making Ryan Shannon a healthy scratch ... Ottawa wraps up its mini Florida road trip Thursday night in Tampa against the Lightning (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200), then returns home to face the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday at Scotiabank Place (2 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). It's also a Subway Savings Game, with all regular-priced tickets available at 20 per cent off.