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Senators look to Latendresse for physical spark

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- Over the 48 hours since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday night, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean has taken virtually any opportunity to talk about how his team's competition level and physicality needed to improve if they had a chance of beating the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Enter 6 feet, 2 inches and 230 pounds of competition level and physicality.

Guillaume Latendresse was with the Senators' third line during practice Thursday and appears poised to be part of Ottawa's lineup for Game 2 of the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I'm pretty excited, that's for sure, and very happy to have a chance to play again and be part of the team," Latendresse said.

Latendresse was skating on the left wing along with Zack Smith and Chris Neil, taking the place of Matt Kassian.

"Competition level and physicality are two important elements in the playoffs," MacLean said. "We need to dress our most competitive, physical lineup every night. That's what the expectation is for all our players, and if we don't see that we try to replace that."

Latendresse is in his seventh NHL season but first with the Senators. He had a goal in the Stanley Cup Playoff opener against the Montreal Canadiens but has been a healthy scratch since after Game 2 of that series.

That had been the only game Ottawa lost this postseason until a 4-1 defeat to the Penguins in Game 1. Game 2 is at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Consol Energy Center.

MacLean said Latendresse had been removed from the lineup because he wasn't using his size as much as he should.

"He has the ability to do it and he has done it in the past," MacLean said. "Now that he's back in, he has the opportunity to show that he can indeed do that."

Although acknowledging he was frustrated at being scratched, Latendresse said he kept a positive attitude. "It's the playoffs," he said. "There's no time to be selfish."

It also appears as if MacLean's message has reached him loud and clear.

"I'm a guy who can use my size around the net and use my size down low as well as be a responsible defensive guy who can score some goals around the net and bring a physical presence," Latendresse said.

"It's not just a message for me -- it's a message for everyone in here. We're all in the same boat. In the playoffs, everybody -- even the best skill guy -- has to play physical and bring it to table."

If Thursday's practice is any indicator, defenseman Andre Benoit was another new addition to the regular lineup. MacLean did not rule Eric Gryba out for Friday's game, but he left Game 2 upon absorbing a hit from Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik.

Benoit was paired with veteran Phillips, and Jared Cowen partnered with Sergei Gonchar.

Jason Spezza remained in Ottawa on Thursday as he continues to recover from back surgery. There was no update on his status, but MacLean on Wednesday said there was no chance he would play Friday.

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