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Final auditions to test Senators defence duo

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Patrick Wiercioch has shown improvement throughout Senators training camp, according to head coach Cory Clouston. Wiercioch and fellow young blueliner Jared Cowen will both be in the lineup in New York tonight (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

So goes the old line in a certain famous song about about New York, where the composition of the Ottawa Senators' season-opening roster just might come into clearer focus. Tonight's matchup with the New York Rangers, in particular, could provide just the stage for one of the team's two prized young blue-line prospects to make a bigger case for themselves.

Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch are both sitting squarely on the bubble  — but still very much in the picture — as the Senators play their final pre-season road game at Madison Square Garden against the Blueshirts (7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200). The two teams are slated to meet again Saturday night in the exhibition finale for both at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers TV, Team 1200).

"We're anticipating a higher level of competition, so we want to make sure that we put them in a situation where they can experience that and see how they respond," Senators coach Cory Clouston said after the team's charter landed in the Big Apple earlier this afternoon.

With veteran Filip Kuba sidelined until at least the end of October with a broken leg, there is at least a temporary opening on the Senators blue line. While veterans David Hale and Brian Lee are in that picture, Clouston and Senators management are still especially keen to see whether one of their younger talents might be up to the challenge.

"It’s generally a position that takes a little more time to develop, so for a guy like Jared, every step is part of the process," Clouston said of the Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. "The competition is going to get tougher, so right now we’re going to see how he responds tonight and go from there. Whether he plays both games or not, we’ll wait and see and so far, he’s played very well.

"I thought the last game was his toughest game. He had a lot of pressure on him as far as the forecheck was concerned and the penalty kill wasn’t as good as it has been, so he was out there for a couple of goals against. It was one of those games young guys sometimes face and we want to see how he responds with tonight’s game."

"It’s generally a position that takes a little more time to develop, so for a guy like Jared, every step is part of the process. The competition is going to get tougher, so right now we’re going to see how he responds tonight and go from there. Whether he plays both games or not, we’ll wait and see and so far, he’s played very well." - Jared Cowen
Wiercioch, a second-round selection (42nd overall) in the 2008 draft, turned in a strong performance during the rookie tournament earlier this month and, Clouston said, has continued his upward curve through main training camp.

"It’s been a steady progress," said Wiercioch. "I think he’s improved each game, he’s getting more comfortable and confident, and every game he can play is a good experience for him. Whether he’s here when the dust settles, we’ll wait and see but we just want to make sure we’re getting the best possible exposure for him and that his learning curve continues to go upward.

"He’s an offensive guy who’s skilled, moves the puck well, reads the play well and has to get bigger and stronger. He’s shown those things."

The Senators expect to finalize their opening roster late Saturday night, Clouston said, and "more than likely, we'll have an announcement Sunday morning."

Around the boards

Senators centre Mike Fisher, who emerged from Wednesday's loss to the Maple Leafs with a sore neck, courtesy of a check from behind by Toronto's Colby Armstrong, could play Saturday against the Rangers. "As of now, yeah," Clouston said when asked if Fisher would be in the lineup. "But we want to make sure we evaluate him properly as well. All indications are he'll play tomorrow." ... Brian Elliott gets the start in goal tonight ... The Binghamton Senators were blanked 3-0 by the Hamilton Bulldogs on Thursday night in their pre-season opener in Corner Brook, N.L. The teams meet again Saturday afternoon in Grand Falls-Windsor ... Viewers whose cable/satellite television provider are currently offering a NHL Centre Ice free preview will have access to tonight's game via the MSG Network, which carries Rangers games ... On Monday at 10:30 a.m., the Senators will practise at the Silver Dart Arena, CFB Petawawa, before going through a team bonding exercise. Prior to the practice, the team will meet with and sign autographs for members of CFB Petawawa Garrison.



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