|Senators goaltender Alex Auld presents a jersey to his youthful counterpart with the West Carleton Peewee House B Warriors as part of Hockey Day in Canada celebrations at Scotiabank Place.
Never mind the fact that it's the opening act on Hockey Day in Canada's big stage.
Even without the fanfare that surrounds CBC's annual celebration of the game, the Ottawa Senators have plenty of reason to use oversized adjectives when describing the importance of Saturday's matchup with the Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
"Gigantic," said forward Shean Donovan.
"This is huge for our team," added Nick Foligno
Simply put, these are the games the Senators need to have if they're to keep harbouring any playoff hopes in the Eastern Conference. The struggling Habs (30-22-7) hold down sixth place, 14 points better than Ottawa (22-26-9). In between, with 66 points, are the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres.
Counting tomorrow's game, the Sens play those three teams a total of seven times before the end of the regular schedule and also have a pair of games left with the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes and one with the 10th-place Pittsburgh Penguins.
Needless to say, a Hockey Day in Canada win (3 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) would be just what the Senators need at this point, not to mention the right way to rebound from Thursday's disappointing 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Scotiabank Place.
"We had a good road trip (4-0-1 in five games) and then we came home and had a stumble, so we've got to get going again," said Donovan earlier today. "If you have any chance (to make the playoffs), you've got to win games and you've got to do it against teams that you're chasing.
"Montreal is a big game ... The guys know we've got to win and we've got to play better. We were very disappointed in the way we played (Thursday) but the coach has been very positive in telling us we're going to play better and that's what we have to do. Win."
"We had a good road trip (4-0-1 in five games) and then we came home and had a stumble, so we've got to get going again. If you have any chance (to make the playoffs), you've got to win games and you've got to do it against teams that you're chasing." - Shean Donovan
While the Canadiens are limping into tomorrow's game on a 2-7-1 skid, Senators head coach Cory Clouston said "we're not even worried about them right now." He's more concerned with avoiding a repeat of the poor start that left his team in a 4-0 hole against Vancouver.
"We're trying to right our ship after (Thursday) night's game," he said. "Two of our last three games – the Minnesota game (on Saturday), as well – we got off to a bad start. We've got to make sure we're focused and ready from the drop of the puck and we can't let other things distract us."
The sense of urgency to do so has never been greater this season, Foligno said.
"We need to win a lot of games from here on in," he said. "(Thursday) was tough but we've got to go into Montreal and do what we did on the road trip and just play a real hard game from start to finish. We know our backs are up against the wall and we can't afford any more errors."Around the boards
Brian Elliott (7-4-2) gets the start against the Canadiens. Clouston didn't fault the goaltender for most of the carnage on Thursday. "We left him hanging a lot of times," he said. "We have to be better in front of him. We can't give up those types of scoring chances." ... The Senators begin an eight-game homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Fewer than 3,500 tickets remain for that game.