Senators facing double threat
Crosby, Malkin offer 'great challenge' on Phillips' milestone night
|In his 800th career game with the Senators, defenceman Chris Phillips looks forward to the test that will be provided by the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Like he's done 799 times previously, Chris Phillips will accept tonight's latest big test at Scotiabank Place for exactly what it is.
"It's a great challenge," the veteran Ottawa Senators defenceman said with an eye toward tonight's matchup with the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200). "Every night, there's someone you have to key on and these guys have a few of them. But it makes it a fun challenge."
The Stanley Cup champions are banged up on the blue line but any team with a lineup that features the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin – two of the National Hockey League's most elite scorers – isn't one to be taken lightly. The two superstars will play on the same line tonight, which means double trouble for Phillips, current defence partner Filip Kuba and the three forwards who'll be on the ice with them.
"That’s twice as big a problem as (facing) just one of them," Phillips said after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "They’re both highly-skilled, they look for each other and look for the other guys. If you give them time to make a play, most of the time they’re going to make it.
"For us, it’s about trying to limit the time they have with the puck and I think, more important than that, is to take the play to them and force them to play in their end."
That about sums up the strategy Senators head coach Cory Clouston would like to see his team employ tonight.
"We just can’t sit back," he said. "But we’ve got to make sure we’re smart with our aggressive play. There are times when there’s a line change or your linemate may have fallen down and you can’t be as aggressive. Then we have to be smart and clog up the middle of the ice."
Goaltender Pascal Leclaire, one of the biggest keys to the Senators' 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, knows it'll take more than just shutting down Crosby and Malkin to have success tonight. Neither managed a goal when the teams met Oct. 12 at Scotiabank Place, but the Penguins' third-liners provided all the offence in a 4-1 victory.
Tonight's game also marks the 800th of Phillips' NHL career – all of them in an Ottawa uniform. Only captain Daniel Alfredsson (950) and Wade Redden (838) have worn the Senators jersey more times.
"It’s big," said Phillips, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. "It’s a bit of a milestone for myself, anyways. A thousand is the next big milestone, I guess, but step by step. I’m pretty excited just to get to 800 so far ... especially in a place that’s treated me so well
"You’re definitely going to see that less and less, with the way the game is now and the (salary) cap. Free agency comes at a younger age now. It’s also pretty neat to see Alfie knocking on the door of 1,000 games, all with the same city."
Around the boards
Clouston will ice the same lineup out for the second straight game, meaning centre Peter Regin and forward Ryan Shannon are again the healthy scratches ... Clouston on Leclaire's importance to the Senators: "When he plays well, we win. Put it that way." ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for tonight's game, the final scheduled appearance by the Stanley Cup-champion Penguins in Ottawa this season.