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Elliott aims to extend winning ways against Sabres

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
BUFFALO — Brian Elliott has the magic touch against the Buffalo Sabres.

And the Ottawa Senators hope their goaltender brings more of those winning ways with him to HSBC Arena tonight (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200). The two Northeast Division rivals square off for the first time in Buffalo this season — the Sabres prevailed 2-1 on Oct. 8 in Ottawa's home-opener — with the Senators in huge need of a victory to put the brakes on a 1-4-1 start to their season.

In eight previous starts against the Sabres, Elliott has posted a perfect 8-0-0 record with a 1.87 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. But Senators head coach Cory Clouston doesn’t believe his goaltender should go into tonight’s matchup believing he has to steal a vital victory for his team.

“He needs to come in a play his game,” Clouston said following the Senators’ pre-game skate earlier today at HSBC Arena. “Don’t try to do too much. Don’t think he has to win us a game. Just play a solid game, worry about the next save and then the next save (after that). And that’s the approach (all of) our players have to take. Worry about winning the next shift and just continue on from there.”

The Senators will sport a slightly altered look in front of Elliott, with veteran David Hale — who has been recalled from the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators — being inserted into the lineup in place of Brian Lee. It means the Senators will ice these defence combinations tonight: Chris Phillips-Sergei Gonchar; Chris Campoli-Matt Carkner and Hale-Erik Karlsson.

“It’s the best pairings, we feel, for the team,” said Clouston. “We’re not just trying to get one or two guys going. We’re looking to have balance, we need to have some chemistry and we need to have maybe a little bit of a different look. Hopefully, we get that tonight with Hale going in.”

While the Senators enter tonight’s game with an 0-3-1 record on the road to date, that also happens to be the same mark the Sabres currently own at home. One of those winless streaks has to end tonight and Clouston knows exactly what it’ll take for the Senators — who have emerged as victors in eight of their previous visits to HSBC Arena — to come out on top tonight.

“Play a full 60 (minutes),” he said. “Do little things to give ourselves momentum and not to give it back to them, whether it be with a turnover, an undisciplined penalty. Just making sure we’re playing a simple solid game.”

Alfie won't wait for milestone at home

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson enters tonight's game against the Sabres three points shy of the 1,000 milestone for his career. If he doesn't hit it tonight, odds are very good it'll happen in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Place, where Ottawa plays its next four games.

Would Alfredsson rather hold up hitting the mark tonight to do it at home?

"I don't know that if I get two points in the first period tonight, I won't try to score (one more)," Alfredsson said with a chuckle. "But if you could pick, I'm sure you'd rather do it at home."

Alfredsson has downplayed the impending milestone so far this season, especially given the Senators' slow start out of the gate in the wins department.

"Right now we have more pressing things to worry about and that's getting some wins," he said. "If we do that, I'm sure I'll get some points."

Around the boards

Filip Kuba, who has been sidelined since the opening day of training camp with a broken right leg, began skating today and the Senators are hopeful the veteran blueliner can begin practising with the team next week. “Toward the end of next week, we hope he is,” said Clouston, who doesn’t want to put a timetable on a return date just yet. “Ten days would be a nice thing; two weeks would probably be more realistic. But that’s just kind of a guess. We’re going to take it day by day.” … The Senators return home to face the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), when it will also be Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night ... Ottawa defence prospect Jared Cowen has been named to Team WHL for the Subway Super Series against Russia. It will be the third straight appearance in the series for Cowen, the captain of the Spokane Chiefs.

Gametime update

Centre Jason Spezza was scratched from the lineup just before the pre-game warmup because of a sore groin and is listed as day-to-day. Brian Lee joined the lineup and was slotted into a forward position for the game against the Sabres.

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