4:30 PM: Get set for puck drop with Gord Wilson and Sens TV.
4:00 PM: It's International Hot and Spicy Food Day today so, to celebrate, Sens TV spoke to Marc Methot about that very topic in today's Gameday Goodie.
3:30 PM: Clarke MacArthur spoke about tonight's game and the team's push for a playoff spot earlier today.
On the gap between games vs. Montreal:
So long, to go away for a week and a half or whatever and play three games is odd. You have December where you don't even get a minute to take a breather and then March is going to come around and it's the same thing again. I've never had a road trip like that where you've had two days between each game. Obviously it worked out well for us.
On if it's too early to watch the standings:
To obsess about it, for sure. It's nice to look at it and see we are in the mix, though. Before we were always four or five points out and now we're right there. Every other game we're sniffing for a spot. It's getting exciting now.
On the success vs. Montreal:
We snuck one out of there last time, we had the lead and those are the games you've got to put away. They have a good offensive team and they're never going to give up so tonight we've got to get back to a more physical, grinding game against them and you've got to slow their forwards down.
On the success of his line:
I think we're getting opportunities and they're going in. On the west trip it's tough to get chances, Nashville and Minnesota's games are pretty tight. We were able to score when we got chances but I think we've created a few things from the low cycle, we've kind of added that to our game a little bit.
On the rivalry:
There's definitely more emotion in the game, it just feels like a pride game more than other games. They have a good competitive hockey team over there and so do we. It's always going to be a good matchup, it seems like ever since the playoffs it kind of set the ground for good games and it has been tight games throughout the whole year this year.
On if you avoid the standings:
There's no point in avoiding them. I think it's a positive thing. You get some wins and you start climbing up and that's what makes it exciting. The first 30 games you're looking at them and you're five points out the whole time, we can't put a string of wins together and you've got 50 games left, anything can happen. Now you're on the back-9 now working your way towards the playoffs. It's exciting.
On staying in structure to win vs. reacting to the opponent to win:
It's a little of both. In Minnesota and Nashville those were structured games. We had a couple minute or two minute lapses here or there but we stuck with it and we didn't give them a whole lot, obviously the goaltending has been great. In Colorado we didn't even come to play in the first six or seven minutes of that game, then we recovered and least got it to give ourselves a chance to win in overtime. You get up two goals you've got to win games now for sure.
3:00 PM: Chris Neil is set to make his return to the lineup tonight. Here's what he had to say about his return.
2:15 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Senators and Canadiens.
Michalek - Zibanejad - Conacher
MacArthur - Turris - Ryan
Greening - Spezza - Stone
Condra - Smith - Neil
Cowen - Karlsson
Phillips - Ceci
Methot - Gryba
Moen - Plekanec - Gionta
Pacioretty - Desharnais - Gallagher
Briere - Eller - Bourque
Bournival - Prust - Parros
Gorges - Subban
Markov - Emelin
Murray - Diaz
1:45 PM: Here's Sens captain Jason Spezza on the team's return to Canadian Tire Centre tonight.
On being on the road:
To be with the guys for eight days with a few days in between was good for the team chemistry and then with getting the wins it allows us to be a little lighter and have a good time doing it too. Road trips can be very positive if you have them the way we had it and also get some days in between.
When you win a couple of games and you start feeling like you know how to win games you're more confident in tied games and when you have the lead. We definitely have a little more confidence in our game for sure.
On the gap between home games:
You're gone for eight days and it feels like 18. It feels like a while since we've been here and we're excited to play a home game.
On playing Montreal:
It's a natural rivalry with how close it is and now that we've played them in the playoffs I think it has intensified. Usually it's a split building and it's pretty feisty in there so they've always led to good games.
On the playoffs intensifying things:
I think it has definitely created more excitement around the two teams. We had Toronto/Ottawa because we played each other in the playoffs so much and now we haven't played each other in a while and now we've played the Habs and it seems like that rivalry has intensified, the playoffs, when you play the same team over and over again, it creates a little bit of bad blood.
1:00 PM: Here's what Paul MacLean had to say after today's morning skate at the Bell Sensplex.
On tonight's lineup:
Chris Neil is going to come back in. Obviously Pageau is down, we sent him back to Binghamton so Matt Kassian will come out. Eric Gryba is going to play on defence and Wiercioch and Corvo will be out…Craig Anderson (will be the starter).
We have four centres, they're playing very well. Mika has gone into the middle and played extremely well for us, Jason Spezza coming back, the play of Kyle Turris and Zack Smith has also been very consistent and very good for us and to have Jean-Gabriel here sitting out, playing fewer and fewer minutes doesn't make any sense for a player who is really in his first year of professional hockey. The opportunity for him to go down with Luke and play big minutes far outweighs the amount of time we can play him here right now.
On going with Anderson over Lehner:
Well it would be easy (to go with Lehner after a shutout). Craig's the number one goalie and our schedule right now is conducive to have Robin Lehner play a game whether it was the game in Minnesota or the game tonight is the plan and that's what we're going with.
On Turris line:
I think they play with speed, they play with pace and all three of them have good skills and when they shoot the puck they're way more effective than when they pass it.
On the message after the road trip:
We better be ready tonight. The first game back is always difficult but the opponent you have also makes it difficult and Montreal, every time we play them, it's a good game. It's an entertaining game, it's a physical game and I think that's going to help us as far as getting ourselves ready to play the game because we know who we're playing and we know it's going to be a good game.
On the difficult of returning home:
I think you just relax a little bit compared to when you're on the road.
On guarding against the letdown:
You just have to get ready to play the game as best as we can.
On the structure and the turnaround:
I think the thing that has changed is that we do it way more than we did earlier. The structure and how we expect our team to play has been there all along, it's whether or not the players embrace it and are willing to do it long enough and hard enough to have success has been, I think, the biggest difference is now we do it as a group.
On the defensive end play:
Our own end has been much better. That has been a hard place for us to start the year with the three young defencemen we had and our older players struggling as well, whether they struggled because they tried to do too much for the young players that were struggling or whether they were struggling themselves, we flat out turned the puck over and played in our own zone way too many times and that led to not only goals against but penalties being way higher. Nothing good happens when you play in your own zone all the time and our play with the puck and without the puck in our defensive zone as a five man group or six man group including the goalie has been much, much better as the season has gone on. If that continues we can reasonably expect to be successful.
Well I wouldn't even stay in the rink to watch him play with the 67s, I'd go two periods and I'd go home because I flat out didn't like the way he played at all. Since he has come to our organization as our player, gone to Binghamton and spent time with Luke Richardson he has come here to training camp and had the summer development camp here. The time that we spent with him, with Jason Smith and Luke and Mark Reeds as far as our defencemen coaching, he has embraced and taken in a lot of knowledge and flat out worked at it. His talent level and his ability to learn is obviously at a high level and that has given him an opportunity. Then seizing the opportunity when it is presented to you has also been a big part of it. He earned the opportunity to be here and play and he flat out hasn't stopped playing yet.
On playing Ceci over more veteran players:
Well he is one of the best four every night. Right now it's Wiercioch, Gryba and Joe Corvo that are in the mix for the third pair every night. Wiercioch and Gryba are younger defencemen that are learning their game and their learning curve has been a little bit steeper or more gradual I guess than Cody's has.
On trying to keep everyone in the lineup happy:
I'm not sure if everyone's happy, including myself, and I don't anticipate that at any time everyone is happy with how we do things but my job is to do the best thing for the Ottawa Senators, not for Paul MacLean, not for Jason Spezza, not for Erik Karlsson, not for Joe Corvo. It's to do the right thing for the Ottawa Senators and be successful and we work at doing that every day.
On the success vs. Montreal:
I think they bring out the competitive nature of our team. I think the fact that they're the Montreal Canadiens, to me, is a big thing. They're a historic franchise in the league, they're a very good team, they're very well coached and we know it's going to be a difficult opponent and they're in our division. We play Boston they're pretty good games too, we play Toronto they're pretty good games. Any time it's in your division there's that natural rivalry and competitiveness. We have success against Montreal but we don't against Boston and we pretty good against Boston too, but we don't seem to be able to find a way to win that game. I just think when you're in your division these times find a way to bring out the competitive nature of your team. It's one goal either way and it has gone our way with Montreal and it hasn't with Boston.
On confidence with historical success:
I think any time you're winning it gives you confidence and belief you can do things. Whether it's them or we just came off the road, played four team and won games there. I think that gives us more confidence right now than the fact we're playing Montreal.
On games this season having diminished physicality:
Not for us, I believe that physicality is an important part of hockey and to be successful you need physicality in your lineup. We just worry about our team.
On Karlsson's goal drought:
He's missing the net. He has seven or eight attempts at the net most nights, five get blocked, three miss the net. For us he is generating offence and he's playing, he just has to take something off and hit the net maybe…I just think he's playing fine.
10:30 AM: The Sens have hit the ice at the Bell Sensplex for today's morning skate.
10:00 AM: The Ottawa Senators have returned home and will get back at it tonight when they play host to the Montreal Canadiens.
The Senators are coming off of a successful four game road trip, going 3-0-1 in stops though Montreal, Colorado, Nashville and Minnesota. Against the Wild, Robin Lehner pitched a shutout for the Sens who took a 3-0 win on the strength of goals from Clarke MacArthur, Erik Condra and Kyle Turris. In their last five games at home the Senators are 4-0-1.
The Canadiens sit seven points ahead of the Sens in the Atlantic Division standings with a record of 26-16-5 in 47 games played with a 12-8-2 mark on the road. In their last game, the Canadiens dropped a 4-1 decision to the New Jersey in Montreal. The Sens have won both games between the two to this point in the season.
The Sens will have their morning skate at 10:15 and I'll have plenty of updates to follow including, but not limited to, lineup changes, players' thoughts on tonight's game, Sens TV updates, Instagram goodness and more.
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