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Bigger tests ahead for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Jason Spezza and the Senators hope to build on the momentum they gained with Wednesday's come-from-behind 4-1 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton (Getty Images).

They've regained a bit of momentum and, given what lies ahead, the timing couldn't be better for the Ottawa Senators.

It was a rejuvenated group of Senators that arrived in southern Alberta to begin preparations for Thursday night's matchup with the Calgary Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome (9:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). The extra bounce in their step came courtesy of a three-goal third-period outburst that allowed the Sens to open their western Canadian road trip with a 4-1 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton on Tuesday night.

In the wake of an 0-2-1 start coming out of the Olympic break, the victory and the goal production — a pair of them on the power play — were welcome signs. So, too, was the fact the Senators kept their heads up even as Oilers goaltender Jeff Deslauriers was standing on his head in preserving a 1-0 lead for most of two periods.

"We didn’t get frustrated," centre Jason Spezza said after the Senators practice earlier today at the Saddledome. "We were down 1-0 and we shouldn’t have been. But we stuck to the game plan, just played a real good system and keep grinding away and capitalized on our power plays.

"You definitely gain confidence when you can come back like that."

But everyone knows the challenge gets much stiffer starting Thursday against the Flames, who are clinging to the eighth and final Western Conference playoff position by a single point. They also pushed the Senators hard in a 3-2 Ottawa win at Scotiabank Place on Feb. 9.

"They work hard and they’re going to be in our face and buzzing at home," said Senators centre Mike Fisher. "We’ve got to try to weather the storm early and see if we can’t get a lead and just play the structured hockey that we can. Play with energy and be physical against these guys."

"We didn’t get frustrated. We were down 1-0 and we shouldn’t have been. But we stuck to the game plan, just played a real good system and keep grinding away and capitalized on our power plays. You definitely gain confidence when you can come back like that." - Jason Spezza
While Senators head coach Cory Clouston, as is his custom, won't name his starting goaltender until Thursday morning, he has to feel comfortable in whatever choice he makes. Pascal Leclaire earned a flu-plagued Senators team a point against the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday with a top-notch performance, then Brian Elliott pretty much shut the door on the Oilers in Tuesday's triumph.

Clouston hopes to have that kind of goaltending option the rest of the way.

"Pascal was instrumental in getting us a point Saturday night and I thought Brian’s game was real solid last night," he said. "We didn’t need him to stand on his head but he was very solid, very poised and helped us get a win. So if we can have both goaltenders playing well, that’s the best-case scenario and that’s what our goal still is."

So, too, is a repeat of the kind of effort the Senators showed on Tuesday. They outshot the Oilers 39-19 and had complete control by the final buzzer.

"There are different points in the game when each team has momentum," said Spezza. "But we feel like if we play like we played (against Edmonton), especially in the second half of that game, and cycle the puck deep – it’s been the strongest suit of our game all year — we should be able to wear (the Flames) down a little bit."

Around the boards

Captain Daniel Alfredsson, forward Alex Kovalev and blueliners Andy Sutton and Matt Carkner were given "maintenance" days off practice today, but all are expected to suit up against the 
Flames ... Clouston acknowledged it isn't likely that injured defenceman Filip Kuba (lower body) or forward Nick Foligno (broken right fibula) will join the team before the road trip ends Saturday in Vancouver against the Canucks (10 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). "We're hoping they’ll join us for practice back at home on Monday at the very least," he said ... Rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson is beginning to show some of the form he displayed before going down with a shoulder injury just before the Olympic break. "I thought last night was his best game since the break and since his injury," said Clouston. "He was very solid, very effective, (showed) good vision, very creative, moved the puck well and showed a lot of confidence and poise for a young man."

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