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Gameday Journal presented by Monarch Homes: Game 58 — Sabres vs. Senators

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

4:45 PM: Get set for puck drop with Gord Wilson and Sens TV.

4:15 PM: Today's Gameday Goodie talks shootouts with Erik Condra after a shootout win over the Blues and following his shootout debut against the Sabres in December.

3:30 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Sens and Sabres.

Ottawa Senators


MacArthur - Turris - Ryan

Michalek - Spezza - Zibanejad

Greening - Smith - Neil

Conacher - Da Costa - Condra


Cowen - Karlsson

Methot - Gryba

Wiercioch - Ceci




Buffalo Sabres


Omark - Ennis - Stafford

Ott - Hodgson - D'Agostini

Foligno - Girgensons - Flynn

Scott - Varone - Ellis


Sulzer - Ehrhoff

Tallinder - Ruhwedel

McBain - Weber




3:00 PM: Zack Smith offered plenty of thoughts after today's skate. Here's what he had to say on yesterday's off-day and the play of his line.

On yesterday's day off providing a boost:

It's big, especially getting in as late as we did. The last few games being on the road and such a tight schedule, you definitely like to take advantage of the days off and get some rest. It was well used yesterday so hopefully it gave us some rest and some legs for today.

On preparation changing with last change:

Paul likes to use us as a shutdown line, that's something we're more than happy to do. We haven't had a lot of home games so it'll be nice to dictate in our rink and get the changes we want out and the matchups we want because it's a pretty important part of the game. I know Paul puts a lot of thought into that too.

On the forecheck sparking the line:

You can call us a very predictable line. I think we know what the other guy is going to do when he has the puck, whether it's in our end, the neutral zone or their end. It's more of a north-south game up and down for us. It can bring consistency and sometimes if we get the puck in and we're being physical, we're going to get the puck back to get it to the net. Whether it's as much as taking a faceoff in our end and taking it down and having a faceoff in their end so we can one of the other lines off, it all depends. There's other ways to bring momentum but those are a couple.

On his play with the puck through the neutral zone:

I think the biggest thing is confidence. It's definitely a little more important than experience but it's nice to know coach has faith in you and puts you in certain situations, whether it's the end of the game or the start of the game, that always helps your confidence. To be in those situations, it's only going to help.

Sens TV also caught up with Zack after today's skate. See that here...

2:30 PM: Eric Gryba offered some of his thoughts after today's morning skate coming off of three nights of heavy minutes.

On a comfort level that comes with playing:

I wouldn't say it's a comfort level by any means. You still have to maintain the same level of hard work. As soon as you get comfortable and complacent, I'll find myself right back out again. If anything I have a little bit more confidence is what it comes down to. The confidence level with the puck, in my skating, that's a big part of it. It's not so much getting too comfortable, it's getting more confident.

On the physical demand escalating with big minutes:

Definitely that's something you get used to, but with all the conditioning I did when I was in and out of the lineup, it was a pretty smooth transition. There weren't many sore days, I came right in and due to the conditioning it was a seamless transition.

On taking on a shutdown role:

I think I'm hopefully starting to develop that, I think we've developed that role together and I know we're both comfortable doing that.

On cutting down the shots against:

It's the little things, taking care of the puck — I don't think it's so much trying to block more shots or anything like that. We also leave a lot of shots on the outside and obviously we trust that we have good goaltending and we trust our goaltenders so. When we play an offensive game sometimes you're going to give up a few more shots but, again, we trust our goaltenders and we feel comfortable giving them a few more shots.

On facing the toughest competition:

It's definitely a different role, it's a role I've wanted but it's different being in and out. I feel I have more confidence now and that's a big thing that lots of guys don't realize. When you're in and out, especially as a young guy, you're questioning your play. Do I have to change something? What do I have to do in my game? Do I have to, all of a sudden for me, become more offensive? I don't know. It worked out, I've been working my way through it and it has worked out to this point.

1:30 PM: Here's what Paul MacLean had to say after today's morning skate.

On tonight's lineup:

Craig Anderson is the goalie, that's the only change.

On Phillips:

He's making progress…We're not going to rule him out for Saturday afternoon just yet but I think we probably will by the time we get there just to make sure that everything is settled. At this point we're not ruling him out just yet.

On Stone:

He's back, he's healthy and ready to go. We returned him to Binghamton today… We went through the rosters to see if we'd get him into the game tonight or tomorrow and they (Binghamton) have a game here that I believe they play on Saturday and then they have two other games during that time. He's a young player that needs to play…If he does well and continues to improve, we expect he'll get another opportunity. I don't know that will be but I would expect that he will get another opportunity.

On Da Costa:

He's going to be with us right now, he's playing tonight. I'd anticipate he'll play Saturday but we'll make a decision then.

On Da Costa's improvement:

He seems to be more prepared to play in the League and do what he has to do to play in the National Hockey League. He played very well during training camp to earn the spot coming out of training camp and then his play kind of fell off a touch. Now he understands what he has to do for him to be successful in the League, he has figured it out and he has been a player that has provided offence and he has been very good defensively. Critical things we had of him early in his career was he couldn't defend, couldn't win faceoffs. He has gone to Binghamton and he has worked on those two specific things and he has come up and he holds his own in the faceoff circle and he can play defence. Those are the two things that give a coach comfort and gets you on the ice all the time…He's not taller but he's stronger and I think that has given him a lot of confidence and he uses his mind and his feet and his skating ability to defend, which is a skill in itself. I think all of those things add up to confidence and belief that you can play in the League.

On tonight as a trap game:

It's a game we're playing so it's always a dangerous game for us but it's the biggest game of the year, it's the next one we have to play. The one in St. Louis was the biggest game of the year, this one is no different. Any time you're coming home from the road it's a tough game to play so there's a lot of reasons why it's a hard game. We know that we have to keep winning to stay in this and get in this at the end of the day and this is the next game on the schedule. I don't think it matters that it's Buffalo or who it is, we know it's a big game and we know we have to be ready to play.

On the Sabres:

I know that when I review the Buffalo games it's 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, so that sounds like a pretty difficult opponent to me. It's going to be a hard game, we know it's going to be a hard game. They've got good goaltending, they've got great work ethic. They're going to come to play and they're going to play hard and if we don't play hard it's not going to go the way we want.

10:30 AM: The Sens are on the ice at Canadian Tire Centre.

10:00 AM: The Ottawa Senators will look to keep heading in the right direction before the Olympic break tonight when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

The Senators enter tonight's game coming off of an impressive 5-4 comeback win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night. The Sens got goals from four players and over 40 saves from Robin Lehner to beat the Blues in a shootout despite trailing 3-1 through two periods. Jason Spezza had three points on the night to lead the team in scoring.

The Sabres have struggled throughout the 2013-14 season and currently reside in the basement of the Eastern Conference with a record of 15-33-8 for 38 points from 56 games. Last night they were knocked off by the Pittsburgh Penguins by a 5-1 margin.

In three games this season the Senators are 2-0-1 against Buffalo.

The Sens will hit the ice for their morning skate at 10:15 AM at Canadian Tire Centre 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.

Stay tuned!

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