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Senators wary of surging Leafs

Expect another tight affair between provincial rivals tonight

Monday, 12.14.2009 / 2:47 PM ET / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
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Senators wary of surging Leafs
Captain Daniel Alfredsson and the Senators expecting nothing less than a tight battle against the Maple Leafs in Toronto tonight (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images).
(Check out the NHL's game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Toronto matchup).

 A quick glance might indicate the gap that separates these two provincial rivals in the Eastern Conference standings is as wide as ever.

But upon further review, there is every reason to suggest tonight's matchup between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) will be a nail-biter right to the final buzzer.

The Senators expect nothing less than another Battle of Ontario against the Leafs, a team they've conquered twice so far this season, but by slim 2-1 (Oct. 6 in Toronto) and 3-2 (Nov. 17 at Scotiabank Place) margins. And while the sixth-place Senators (16-11-4) are head and shoulders above the 14th-place Leafs in the conference standings, the margin between the two now sits at seven points.

All of which makes tonight's "four-point game" between these teams a significant one. Then again, given the fact that 15 of the Senators' 31 matches so far this season have produced one-goal results, head coach Cory Clouston expects another tight finish.

"We look at every game as a very big game," Clouston said after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today at the ACC. "The league is so tight right now and the opposition is so well-prepared that you can’t take a night off.

"We’re looking at this as just (another) game, as far as we have to play our game and we have to do that for 60 minutes to give ourselves an opportunity to win."

This also isn't the same Leafs team the Senators faced earlier on this season. They've won three straight at the ACC and seven of their last 10, including Saturday's 6-3 triumph over the conference-leading Washington Capitals in which the trio of Phil Kessel, Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky combined for eight points.

"Early on in the season, they struggled, probably because they had a lot of new faces," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "But it seems like they’ve turned it around and they're playing some really good hockey. We’re expecting a tight-checking game."

But one thing hasn't changed about tonight's opponent.

"We look at every game as a very big game. The league is so tight right now and the opposition is so well-prepared that you can’t take a night off. We’re looking at this as just (another) game, as far as we have to play our game and we have to do that for 60 minutes to give ourselves an opportunity to win." - Cory Clouston
"Even in their losses against us and the games that we watched, they still played hard," Clouston said of the Leafs. "That’s the one thing they’ve done, they’ve worked hard. They may not have always gotten the breaks or won the games but for the most part, they played hard and were aggressive. And they’re starting to play with some confidence now."

Ottawa, meanwhile, has won two straight on the road and hopes to extend that streak tonight. It would be a good sign for a team that has been one of the National Hockey League's best on home ice this season (11-4-3) but hasn't come close to matching that record away from Scotiabank Place.

"We won a couple on the road lately but before that, we struggled on the road," said centre Mike Fisher, whose hot start this season now has him only three points shy of the 300 mark for his career. "We’ve been pretty good at home, but we’ve got to be better on the road a little more consistently. But we’ve been right there in most of the games and playing hard, and tonight’s going to be another tough match."

Around the boards

Brian Elliott (8-6-3) makes his 13th straight start in goal tonight ... Defenceman Chris Campoli is again a healthy scratch as Clouston goes with the same lineup he used in Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes ... The Senators are 9-2-4 in one-goal games this season ... After tonight, the Senators play eight of their next 11 games at home, including Wednesday's matchup with the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200). It's another Subway Savings Game, with all regular-priced tickets priced at 20 per cent off, starting at $14 in the Coke Zero Zone.




1 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
2 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
3 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
4 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
5 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
6 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
7 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
8 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


E. Karlsson 82 21 45 7 66
M. Stone 80 26 38 21 64
K. Turris 82 24 40 5 64
B. Ryan 78 18 36 5 54
M. Hoffman 79 27 21 16 48
M. Zibanejad 80 20 26 0 46
C. MacArthur 62 16 20 -6 36
M. Michalek 66 13 21 3 34
D. Legwand 80 9 18 1 27
A. Chiasson 76 11 15 -5 26
C. Anderson 14 13 8 .923 2.49
R. Lehner 9 12 3 .905 3.02