Skip to main content

Senators understand danger banged-up Habs present

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- If there is one team in the NHL that understands not to take an injury-ravaged opponent lightly, it would be the Ottawa Senators.

After all, the Senators were written off by most after losing No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson, No. 1 defenseman Erik Karlsson and No. 1 center Jason Spezza for long stretches this season, with Spezza still out recovering from back surgery.

But those heavy losses did not stop the Senators from making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and now that they are there, their opponent is a team facing the same type of challenge.

The Montreal Canadiens enter Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Senators on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, CNBC) down 3-1 and missing their starting goaltender and four important forwards.

"We know that adversity can lead to opportunity," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "We've done it ourselves, so we should be aware of it."

Lars Eller (concussion, facial fractures), Brian Gionta (torn biceps), Brandon Prust (upper body) and Ryan White (upper body) all will miss Game 5 for Montreal, as will Price, who is out for the remainder of the series with a lower-body injury.

"If anyone can understand what kind of rallying point that can be when you lose players and have new guys coming in, our team would understand that," Senators center Zack Smith said. "We've done that to a lot of teams this year, surprised a lot of teams. We had great young players come into our lineup that helped us a lot, helped us to win games a lot of people thought we weren't supposed to win.

"So we can't take them lightly because we've been in that situation."

One benefit of facing the kind of adversity the Canadiens are dealing with is it can reinforce to players the need to stick with the system and remain on the same page. Any freelancing quickly can lead to defeat.

"I think it magnifies it even more when you're missing key players out of your lineup," Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said. "The emphasis grows even more on being a team, playing together, playing tight. We have to be five-man units all over the ice. That's the only way we're going to be successful. We'll have to be very good together [in Game 5]."

As for the goaltender facing the Senators, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean did not need much time to explain how little it matters for his team to be facing backup Peter Budaj instead of Price.

He simply recited Budaj's regular season won-loss record: "8-1-1," MacLean said. "That's a pretty good goalie. We know he's a good goalie and we know we have to play hard and make it difficult for him to play his position."

The danger of holding a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 series is that one team can't afford to lose and the other has room for error. That room often times can lead to just that -- errors -- whereas the team that has its season on the line almost always will bring everything it has simply because the reality of the situation hits it in the face.

"If we don't, we go home. That's just the facts," Gorges said. "You can call it pressure, you can call it whatever you want -- the facts are we need to win tonight or our season's over."

But MacLean said he feels the Senators' history in the playoffs will serve it well in facing what will be a very desperate Canadiens team.

"Our approach is that we're desperate to win a playoff series," he said. "We haven't done that, at least since I've been here. We had two opportunities last year, in Game 6 and Game 7 against the Rangers, to win a playoff series, and tonight's the next opportunity we have.

"So I feel we're desperate to win a series."

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.