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Fisher good to go against Sabres

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Remove the question mark that was sitting behind Mike Fisher’s name.

The Senators centre, who was laid low Wednesday by a flu bug that has invaded the team’s dressing room, won’t be a spectator after all when Ottawa faces the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200).

Fisher took the morning pre-game skate with the rest of his teammates, then declared himself good to go for the fifth meeting this season between these Northeast Division rivals.

“I didn’t feel great (Wednesday), but for the most part felt pretty good in the skate today,” said Fisher. “I’ll be fine.”

That’s good news for the Senators, who will ice an almost completely healthy lineup against the Sabres. Only Patrick Eaves (separated shoulder) remains sidelined at the moment, and head coach John Paddock said there’s still a chance the forward could return to the lineup sometime this weekend – either Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), or Sunday vs. the New York Islanders (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet. Team 1200).

Meanwhile, the Sabres, who are winless in seven games, have decided to give goaltender Ryan Miller a break today and will instead start backup Jocelyn Thibault.

“Miller’s played all the time when we’ve played them, so I’m surprised,” admitted Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. “But they’ve got to try something different here. They need to win.”
Added centre Jason Spezza: “Ryan’s played the majority of their games and maybe he’s getting a little tired. It’s a tough time of the year for us as players to stay sharp.”

Martin Gerber (19-6-1) makes his 27th start of the season in the Ottawa net.

The Senators insisted again Thursday that they won’t get caught looking ahead to Saturday’s big showdown against the Red Wings, which will pit the National Hockey League’s two conference leaders against each other for the only time this season – unless they meet again in the Stanley Cup final, that is.

Even if the Sabres have lost seven straight and the Senators are 3-1-0 against them this season, including a pair of wins in Buffalo in their last two meetings.

“(Tonight) is a big game for us,” said Fisher. “We’ve been kind of up and down in the last little while and haven’t played great through parts of games.

“It’s a division rivalry and we’re not looking ahead to Saturday right now. We’ve got to make sure we play hard and feel a little better than we have in the last little while.”

Defenceman Wade Redden doesn’t expect anything but another battle with the Sabres, a team they’ve crossed swords with in the playoffs the past two seasons.

“They’re a team that plays us hard,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of good games against them, so we know what to expect. We’ve got to be ready.

“Any team that’s looking for something to build on is going to be working hard all night, and we’ve got to do the same.”

Fewer than 200 tickets remain for tonight’s game, and less than 50 for Saturday’s matchup with the Wings.

Lee named to PlanetUSA squad for AHL All-Star Classic

Binghamton Senators defenceman Brian Lee has been named to the PlanetUSA squad that will face the Canadian team in the annual American Hockey League All-Star Classic. The game will be played Jan. 28 at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, N.Y. B-Sens Denis Hamel and Lawrence Nycholat earlier earned selection to the Canadian squad, with Nycholat being named one of the six starters.

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