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Senators taking dead aim at series-tying victory

Alfie's status uncertain; team knows tonight's Game 4 crucial in 'race to four wins'

Wednesday, 18.04.2012 / 12:58 PM / 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs
By Rob Brodie  - OttawaSenators.com
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Senators taking dead aim at series-tying victory
With or without their leader, the Ottawa Senators have a big task on their hands tonight.

And that means doing whatever it takes to pull even with the New York Rangers in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final. The Senators trail the series 2-1 heading into tonight's matchup at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) and would dearly love to square this affair before it returns to Madison Square Garden on Saturday for Game 5.

"It's a race to four (wins)," Senators centre Jason Spezza said following the team's pre-game skate earlier today. "We've got to get closer there. You can only control the game you're playing next and that's tonight. We can't worry about what's happened in the past or look too far into the future, either. It's just trying to get this next win and even things up. Then we'll go from there."

Most likely, they'll have to do it again without captain Daniel Alfredsson, who didn't take the morning skate and missed Game 3 with a concussion suffered on a elbow by the Blueshirts' Carl Hagelin on Saturday in New York. Senators head coach Paul MacLean said "at this time, there's no change in the status" of Alfredsson, who had a "setback" that kept him out of Monday's game.

While the Senators are prepared to forge on without their captain, they've already shown collectively they can get the job done against the favoured Blueshirts. On Monday, Ottawa outshot New York 39-23 and did everything but get a puck past Lundqvist in a 1-0 loss. They've convinced a similar effort tonight can produce the desired result.

"I don't think we're going to try to change much," said forward Milan Michalek. "We're going to try to go to the net again and be hard there. We have to (push) harder to get the opportunities. They got one (goal) the other night and, hopefully, we can get one tonight. It's going to be a grind, so we have to be better at that."

Added defenceman Matt Carkner: "It's a collective effort on our parts to step up a bit and fill in that void. I don't think anyone has to do anything extraordinary. We all just have to pitch in a little bit more and help the team the best we can."

Spezza called it "an opportunity for other guys to make an impact," adding the Senators expect to benefit once again from what should be another raucous sellout crowd at Scotiabank Place. Ottawa has led only once in the series to date — when Chris Neil scored the overtime winner in Game 2 — and wants to change that tonight.

"We did a lot of things well the last game and now we've just got to try to score," said Spezza. "For us, I think it would benefit our team to get out to a lead. We haven't played much with the lead in this series at all, so it's important for us to get off to a good start (tonight). In the playoffs, you're really forced to leave the games in the past in the past.

"I'm sure (the Rangers) aren't satisfied with the fact they beat us the last game and we're not satisfied with the loss. You do have to have a short memory, but you do have to learn from the games that you've played."

Forward Nick Foligno is counting on an "electrifying" atmosphere tonight at Scotiabank Place, where Ottawa hasn't won a playoff game since Game 3 of the 2007 Stanley Cup final.

"We're hoping for the same effect (from the fans) tonight and I'm sure it will be," said Foligno. "If we had any bounces go our way (Monday), we probably would have won that game. We're looking from the same intensity from them and we'll bring our effort. Hopefully, it will be a different outcome tonight."

While Alfredsson's availability later in the series remains a mystery, the Senators intend to keep things going until his possible return.

"Our plan is to play without him and when he comes back, he'll be a big boost to our club," Spezza said of the captain. "We don't know how he feels. It's one of those injuries where he could wake up this afternoon and feel good, or he could wake up tomorrow and feel good. Or it could be a couple of weeks.

"You can't sit around waiting for him to come back. We have a group that can win some games and, hopefully, when he comes back, we're in a good position."

Around the boards

No roster changes were announced this morning by MacLean, who said "we're keeping all of our lineup options open at this time." However, he caused a stir by including Binghamton callup Mike Hoffman in the pre-game skate. Hoffman, the B-Sens' leading scorer this season with 49 points (21-28), made his National Hockey League debut on Dec. 23 against the Carolina Hurricanes and has no Stanley Cup playoff experience. "He played good in the Carolina game and he's had a good season for Binghamton," MacLean said of Hoffman, a former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League MVP who recoreded 98 goals in his final two seasons with the Saint John Sea Dog. He was a fifth-round pick (130th overall) by the Sens in the 2009 draft ... Fewer than 100 tickets remain for tonight's game.

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