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At the Rink: Avalanche at Senators

by Chris Stevenson

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche are two teams with problems to fix going into their game Thursday at Canadian Tire Centre.

For the Senators, it's trying to figure out how to improve on an 18-17-6 home record last season.

For the Avalanche, it's how to kick-start an offense that is tied for last in the NHL with an average of 1.0 goals per game.

Senators forward Chris Neil said the Senators' mediocre home record might have been the difference when it came to missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

"We were on the outside looking in last year, and if our home record was better we'd be going into the postseason. That's a goal this team has, make the playoffs and make a little noise there, too," Neil said.

The key to improvement, Neil said, is playing like the Senators have been playing on the road, opening the season with a 2-1-0 start.

"On the road you simplify your game," he said. "You aren't selling season tickets on the road. That has something to do with it. You come home and you try to be too fancy and do too much individual stuff. That doesn't work."

Senators center Kyle Turris said Ottawa's special teams play has to improve at home. The Senators entered were 30th in the League in home power-play efficiency last season at 11.8 percent.

"A couple of things that hurt us last year was getting into penalty trouble and being too much on the [penalty kill]. We lost a couple of games that way," Turris said.

"It's a fresh start for us. We have an opportunity to do well at home and that's huge in this League," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "You have to be able to string together wins at home and take care of home ice. For the most part we're all professionals and should be able to handle ourselves whether we're on the road or at home. The only thing that changes is the color of the sweater we're wearing and who the fans are cheering for."

The Avalanche, who were shut out in back-to-back games against the Minnesota Wild to start the season, have split their past two games, a 2-1 win against the Boston Bruins and a 3-2 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We feel like we're starting to play better," Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla said. "Everything is magnified at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately in our first couple of games we got shut out so everybody starts to push and press a little bit. We've got a lot of skill and talent in here and we're willing to compete. We don't doubt that we will be able to score goals."

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said it was important for his teammates to draw on previous experience.

"We do have a lot of goal scorers in this room who have been through this before, have been through slumps before from a team standpoint," he said. "We might as well get tested early in the season if we're going to get tested.

"We feel good about our group, and the way we've been playing the last few games we know we're going to win games if we keep that up. It's just about confidence."

Coach Patrick Roy said despite the slow start offensively, the Avalanche remain in a position to have a good start.

"This is an important game for us," Roy said. "It's a good time for us to score goals. It's a good time for us to win a big game. If we do so we'll be in good shape. We play five of our first six games on the road. Coming back at home picking up seven points out of a possibility of 10 on the road would be great."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie McGinn - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Dennis Everberg

Alex Tanguay - Nathan MacKinnon - Daniel Briere

Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Maxime Talbot

Nick Holden - Erik Johnson

Jan Hejda - Tyson Barrie

Brad Stuart - Zach Redmond

Reto Berra

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Marc-Andre Cliche, Jesse Winchester, Ryan Wilson

Injured: Semyon Varlamov (groin)


Clarke MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Mark Stone

Bobby Ryan - Mika Zibanejad - Alex Chiasson

Milan Michalek - Zack Smith - Curtis Lazar

Erik Condra - David Legwand - Chris Neil

Chris Phillips - Erik Karlsson

Patrick Wiercioch - Cody Ceci

Mark Borowiecki - Eric Gryba

Craig Anderson

Robin Lehner

Scratched: Jared Cowen, Colin Greening, Mike Hoffman,

Injured: Marc Methot (back).

Status report: Varlamov was placed on injured reserve, and Pickard was recalled from Lake Erie. ... The Avalanche will have center John Mitchell back in the lineup against the Senators. He missed Colorado's first four games because of blurred vision and headaches, a carryover from an injury he sustained in April. Roy said he wasn't sure which player would be out so Mitchell could play.

Who's hot: Anderson made 30 saves in a 1-0 shutout against the Florida Panthers on Monday. It was the 27th shutout of his career and 13th with the Senators. ... Turris has points (one goal, two assists) in each of the Senators' three games. ... Iginla had two assists for the Avalanche against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

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