|Even with the NHL's trade deadline looming ever closer, Dany Heatley and the Senators know their focus has to stay on tonight's matchup against the red-hot Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
For three hours tonight, at least, it will be just about the game.
As the buzz keeps building toward the National Hockey League's trade deadline, the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames get a respite of sorts from it all when they face off at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). For both teams and 22 others around the league, it's the last game action before Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline.
Even with the deadline looming, the Senators know exactly where their focus needs to be against a Flames team that beat them 6-3 in Calgary on Dec. 27. The Flames are coming off an 8-6 home-ice loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday but that doesn't do anything to lessen the challenge in the Sens' minds.
"They're a good team that's playing real well," Senators centre Jason Spezza
said of the Flames (37-19-6), who stand third in the Western Conference and are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. "You've got to watch the (Jarome) Iginla-(Mike) Cammalleri line. They're pretty hot right now and it's going to be a good challenge for us."
Forward Dany Heatley compared it to the test the Senators faced last week against the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks, a game in which the visitors had to work hard to take home a 2-1 victory.
"(The Flames) have a great squad from top to bottom," Heatley said after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "We have to play the same type of game we played against San Jose. (Calgary) has a similarly built team and has a lot of offensive power. I thought we had a real good chance to win that San Jose game and we have to play that way and even better tonight."
Senators head coach Cory Clouston sees a matchup against an opponent that won't let up from the drop of the puck to the final buzzer.
"Coming off a tough loss (to Tampa), I think they're going to be a little hungrier than if they'd won," he said. "They play hard and they get pucks in deep ... They're a physical team, so we've got to make sure we match that physical play but also not turn pucks over to give them opportunities to create momentum off their forecheck.
"We've got to do the exact same thing. We've got to get pucks in deep, make sure we're managing the puck well and not giving them opportunities to create that momentum."
Needless to say, extra attention will be paid to the Iginla-Cammalleri-Craig Conroy combo. Clouston figures to hand that matchup to Mike Fisher, Daniel Alfredsson
and Nick Foligno
"We have to play the same type of game we played against San Jose. (Calgary) has a similarly built team and has a lot of offensive power. I thought we had a real good chance to win that San Jose game and we have to play that way and even better tonight." - Dany Heatley
"We've got to shut down their big line," said Fisher. "There's no question that's a challenge for us. We just have to continue to play the way we have in parts of the last few games. We feel like we've been moving the puck better and play pretty well defensively and we're getting contributions from a bunch of different lines, which helps.
"If we can do that, we know we've got a chance against this team."
But even with that in front of them, the Senators couldn't escape the trade talk for long. When Clouston announced that forward Christoph Schubert was being inserted into the lineup for the first time in almost a month, it led to speculation he was being showcased for a potential deal. Schubert tweaked a groin in practice last Thursday but had been a healthy scratch the previous nine games.
"You can see it however you want to. I'm just happy to be back in the lineup," Schubert said with a shrug when asked about his situation. "It's been awhile, so hopefully I'm not too nervous out there. I feel good, I'm healthy again and I just want to do my job out there and do the best I can. We'll see what happens afterward."Around the boardsAlex Auld
(12-15-6) returns to the Senators net tonight ... Defenceman Alexandre Picard (lower body) is out ... With Schubert back in the lineup, Shean Donovan is a healthy scratch ... Tonight's game marks the opener of a seven-game road trip for the Flames ... Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for the game, while 3,500 are still left for Thursday's appearance by the Edmonton Oilers at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).