The Ottawa Senators are hoping a matchup with an old foe can be the springboard to a brand new winning streak in a new year.
For the fourth time this season, the Senators will line up against the Buffalo Sabres, with Friday’s matchup (7:30 p.m., Sens TV, Team, 1200) marking Ottawa’s third visit to HSBC Arena in 2007-08. The Senators own a 2-1-0 record this season against the team they beat in the Eastern Conference final last year.
“We’ve got a bit of a history against them,” said goaltender Ray Emery, who’ll make his first start since Dec. 22. “So it’s definitely a fun game for us.”
Added captain Daniel Alfredsson
: “We’ve had good battles with them and I don’t think tonight will be any different.”
Emery, who has watched from the bench while Martin Gerber started the last five straight games and nine of the previous 10, said rebounding from back-to-back ugly losses to the Washington Capitals is foremost in his mind tonight.
“When you get in there, you want to win. That’s as far as I look at it,” said Emery, who owns a 9-3-0-1 lifetime record against the Sabres. “We had a couple of rough games against Washington, so it’s a good test for us coming in here.”
Head coach John Paddock said he felt a goaltending change was in order after the Senators surrendered 14 goals in the two losses to the Capitals. He pulled Gerber after the Caps wiped out a 2-0 deficit Tuesday with three quick first-period goals.
“(The decision) is based on the last two games as much as anything,” said Paddock.
“When you allow 14 goals (in two games)… it’s not all Martin Gerber’s fault, but that’s just why.”
The Senators also welcome defenceman Anton Volchenkov back into the lineup against the Sabres. The big Russian missed the last 15 games because of a broken finger.
“To some extent, he rounds out our (defensive) pairs again,” said Paddock. “He hasn’t played in more than a month, so there’s going to be some timing and rust and game condition (issues). But he is a presence for us at all times.”
Volchenkov’s return was supposed to mean a shift back to the forward position for Christoph Schubert, who had been filling the blue-line void. But Joe Corvo missed Friday’s pre-game skate because he has the flu, and a decision hadn’t yet been made about whether he’ll suit up against the Sabres.
The Senators are back home Saturday night to face the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Fewer than 100 tickets remain for the game.Alfie high on Swedes
Alfredsson was enthused to hear the news that Sweden edged Russia 2-1 in overtime Friday morning to advance to the world junior hockey championship final in Pardubice, Czech Republic. The Swedes will face either Canada or the U.S. on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s big for our program,” said Alfredsson. “We haven’t put together really good (junior) teams the last few years. They had a lot of expectations on them this year and it’s nice to see them live up to them. Hopefully, they’ll play well again in the final.”