OTTAWA – Expect a spike of intensity Friday night as the Habs and Sens get set to clash for their second game in only three days.
After taking five months to get through their first three match-ups of 2011-12, the Canadiens and Senators are butting heads in marathon style in March, squaring off three times in only 10 days. With the Sens locked in a battle for a prime playoff position, it wouldn’t be a stretch to expect Friday night’s game – their second in a row – to be their most physical encounter of the season.
“With a home and away series like this against any team, the physical aspect of things is bound to get ramped up. We know they’re going to push harder than they did in the last game and we’re ready for that,” explained Habs forward Ryan White who logged 18:11 of ice-time Wednesday night against Senators.
“We’re only two hours away from Ottawa so we end up playing them a lot in the preseason and then again in the regular season,” continued White. “We’re two teams that know each other pretty well. We know that it’s tough to play against them and we want to make sure they have the same problem with us. I think we did a good job of that in our last game.”
In actuality, the Canadiens have done a good job of that when facing the Senators all season long. The Habs have walked away with three of the teams’ first four meetings in 2011-12, and still nabbed a point in their solitary loss that came by way of a Daniel Alfredsson game-winning shootout goal on January 14.
“Every year it kind of changes – whether we have one team’s number or they’ve got ours, it always just comes down to coming out and competing,” noted P.K. Subban who posted three hits and an assist in his game-high 28:41 of ice time on Wednesday night. “They’re right down the road from Montreal so maybe we’re used to that intensity. There are always a lot of Habs fans in the building whenever we play here, so that’s something that we always like to feed off of.”
Friday night, the Habs will be competing with a Senators squad who are well aware that a win over the visiting team would rocket them five spots up the Eastern Conference ladder, passing the Bruins for the lead of the Northeast division and second place in the conference.
“They’re a good team and at this point in the season we’re trying to play spoiler. They want to go into the playoffs having established their team identity and make sure they’re playing the right way,” added Subban. “For us, we’re just going to play their top players hard and make sure we stick to our game plan.”
One player aiming to turn in a strong performance in Friday’s tilt is forward Rene Bourque, who will be looking to provide the Habs with a strong physical presence after Randy Cunneyworth suggested it was time for the winger to start upping his game.
“It doesn’t really bother me. What he’s saying is the truth. I need to be better and I haven’t been producing as much as I would like. He’s just trying to get me going,” explained Bourque of comments made by his head coach following yesterday's practice.
“This hasn’t been my best season. It’s been a little strange for me with my suspension and then being traded,” finished Bourque. “I know those aren’t excuses – I just need to be better.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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