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Senators eager for 'benchmark game' against Pens

Ottawa aiming to close out six-game road stretch on high against 'elite' opponent

Friday, 25.11.2011 / 2:40 PM / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
Chris Phillips and the Senators would love to close out their six-game road stretch on a high with a victory over the Penguins tonight. Ottawa has posted a 9-4-2 record since opening the season 1-5-0 (Getty Images).

It's the kind of matchup designed to measure a work in progress.

When the Ottawa Senators hit the ice against the Penguins tonight at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), they'll be anxious to see just how far they've come in the early stages of their first season under the tutelage of head coach Paul MacLean.

Since struggling to a 1-5-0 start, the Senators have turned things around nicely, posting a 9-4-2 mark to rise above the .500 mark. Ottawa is also 3-1-1 on a six-game road trip that concludes this evening in the Steel City, recording points in four straight games. All of that, however, figures to get a test against the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins (12-6-4), who added Sidney Crosby back into their mix earlier this week.

"They've got a lot of depth, there's no question about that," veteran Senators defenceman Chris Phillips said with an eye toward the task at hand tonight. "And it's a great benchmark game (for us), if you want to call it that. You want to put yourself up against the best and see where you stand.

"In lots of situations, when you know you have a tough opponent, you rise up and we expect everyone to be at our chance tonight and we'll give ourselves a chance to win."

Count MacLean among those anxious to see how the Senators match up.

"Our last game in Vancouver (a 2-1 overtime loss on Sunday) was against an elite team in the league," he said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "And again here tonight in Pittsburgh, it's an elite team. We're measuring ourselves against the best teams in the league.

"We've had some success and we've had some nights that weren't very successful. This is another opportunity for us to come in here, be prepared and play the game the Senators way and see how it goes. But we're looking forward to the opportunity."

For young Senators such as 20-year-old blueliner Jared Cowen, it's a first opportunity to match wits with the likes of Crosby for the first time. If the Saskatoon native is nervous about it, he's not exactly saying so.

"He'll be one of the best players I've ever played against," Cowen said of potentially staring down Crosby at some point tonight. "There's great players all around the league, but he's got to be up there, for sure. I'm not really sure what to expect, but it'll be a good challenge, a good experience and (hopefully) I do well.

"One of the biggest things that can happen (is) you overthink it instead of just trusting yourself, which can be hard to do in these types of situations against those kind of players. Hopefully, it doesn't happen too much tonight, but I'm sure it will and it's not a big deal."

Around the boards

No lineup changes for the Senators tonight, meaning defenceman David Rundblad is again a healthy scratch. Craig Anderson gets the start in goal, with Marc-Andre Fleury getting the nod between the pipes for the Penguins ... The Senators have won at least one game in Pittsburgh in 10 of the last 12 seasons ... Ottawa plays its first home game in 18 days on Sunday, when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the capital. A reminder to fans that it's an earlier 5 p.m. start at Scotiabank Place ... Fewer than 500 tickets remain for Sunday's game.


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