And according to Head Coach Claude Julien, the Sens are no joke.
“It may be a surprise to a lot of people where they are, but I would tell you right now they’re the real deal,” Julien said after practice yesterday. “Their coach [Paul MacLean] has done a great job of bringing that group together and building some sort of chemistry – you cans see it in their play. They play hard [and] they don’t hang their heads.”
The Senators (27-19-6) are just four points behind the Boston Bruins (31-14-2), who lead the division with 64 points.
“It’s a game in our division and those are always huge points,” forward Patrice Bergeron
said. “Ottawa’s a team that’s been playing some pretty good hockey all year and it seems like they’re getting even better. We’re ready for that, and [we have to] use the five days to our advantage.”
The Sens are equipped with Daniel Alfredsson, whose talents were on display last weekend as he scored two goals and an assist in the All-Star game. When paired with forward Jason Spezza, he’s even more dangerous.
But the talent doesn’t stop there. Julien said he’s impressed by their defense, especially the play of rookie Jared Cowen.
“[MacLean] is very good with the young players,” Julien said. A”s far as developing them, he’s done a great job. Spezza and Alfredsson and all those guys are having good years – their veterans are good [and] they’re goaltending is good.
“Cowen, as a defenseman is having a solid year for a rookie and those are the things that maybe create surprises for teams. People that probably over exceed the expectations of the outside and I think they’ve done that.”
Forward Zach Hamill
, who will be playing alongside Chris Kelly
and Benoit Pouliot
while Rich Peverley
steps in for Nathan Horton
, said his team has to be ready to play teir best game.
“You look at their lineup – I’m not surprised at all,” Hamill said. “They have four deep lines that can score and six D, and both goalies are playing good. They’re a tema that’s playing good right now.”
The Bruins and the Senators have squared off twice this season, and the B’s one both games 5-3 and 5-2, respectively.
However, forward Milan Lucic
said that the team needed the extra effort to win and he expects the same tonight.
“They’ve been playing a lot better and when they came in here, they were on a seven-game wining streak and that was a hard fought game,” Lucic said. “They came out and scored two quick goals on us and even [in Ottawa], if it wasn’t for Timmy who stopped  out of  shots we don’t win that game.
“They’re definitely a team we don’t take lightly. It’s something we can look forward to and having a big test off of break.”--- Anthony Gulizia