|Goaltender Pascal Leclaire is expected to see a full 60 minutes of action tonight as the Senators close out their pre-season schedule against the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images).
So it's not exactly one of those intense Northeast Division showdowns that form the heart of the Ottawa Senators' schedule each season.
But in head coach Cory Clouston's eyes, the sight of the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place tonight (7 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200) should present the opportunity for just the right finish to his team's pre-season schedule.
"I think it's a really good thing we're playing Boston," Clouston said of the Senators' last game action until their regular-season opener Oct. 3 in New York against the Rangers. "I’m not sure what their lineup will be (tonight), but it doesn’t matter who they put out there.
"We know it’s going to be a competitive team that plays with structure and plays with discipline. To me, it’s the perfect game to test ourselves and to get prepared for the regular season."
The Bruins won't ice regulars such as defenceman Dennis Wideman and forwards David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Blake Wheeler tonight. But that doesn't change things for captain Daniel Alfredsson
, who also sees a chance for the Senators to measure where they stand as the pre-season wraps up.
"They have one of the better lineups in our conference and they play a really sound game," said Alfredsson. "They're good defensively, they're structured and they don't give you very much, so you're going to have to work for it.
"That's going to be a key for us tonight -- don't give them anything easy. If we do that, I think we can skate with them and, hopefully, we can get the lead on them, which is important against that team."
There is also the matter of setting a positive tone against a team that dominated the Senators during the regular season in 2008-09, winning five of six matchups between the teams.
"We've struggled against Boston the last couple of years, so we want to try to shake that," said centre Jason Spezza
. "To win the East, you've got to beat the Boston Bruins most likely, because they're one of the favourites. I don't think this game means too much in that whole scheme of things, but they're a good hockey club, for sure."
It might also be suggested this is one final audition for the likes of centre Peter Regin
and defencemen Erik Karlsson
and Matt Carkner
, who are in the heat of the battle to lock down roster spots heading into the season. Clouston expects to make some final cuts perhaps as soon as post-game tonight, though he suggested some decisions might be put off until Monday.
"I think it's a really good thing we're playing Boston. I’m not sure what their lineup will be (tonight), but it doesn’t matter who they put out there. We know it’s going to be a competitive team that plays with structure and plays with discipline. To me, it’s the perfect game to test ourselves and to get prepared for the regular season." - Cory Clouston
"Just play your game," Clouston said when asked what advice he'd give to those still fighting for jobs. "Every one of those guys is still here because they're playing their game and they're playing well. Really, (they don't need) to change a thing. Just make sure if the game is elevated tonight, make sure you elevate your game."
Regin and Karlsson, who both seem destined to be in the lineup against the Rangers, aren't taking anything for granted just yet.
"It's a big test for me," said Regin, who'll centre the second line tonight between Mike Fisher and Alex Kovalev. "Every time I step on the ice, it's a big test for me. It's the same tonight and, hopefully, I can (have) a good performance and stick around."
Said Karlsson: "There probably is (pressure), but I try not to focus on that. There are so few guys left here, so everybody's got to really step up and play really well tonight ... I've just got to stay focused on what I can do and not what I can't do. I'm just going to play my game."Around the boards
Tonight's Senators scratches include forwards Jarkko Ruutu, Shean Donovan and Zack Smith
, defenceman Alex Picard and the ailing Jesse Winchester
(right knee) and Filip Kuba
(lower body) ... Goaltender Pascal Leclaire is expected to play the full 60 minutes against the Bruins ... Spezza on new linemate Milan Michalek
: "He reminds me a bit of (Marian) Hoss(a), how he's up and down the wing hard and runs good routes and stuff." ... With a win tonight, the Senators would even their pre-season record at 3-3-0.