|Senators forward Chris Neil prepares his skates for tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Place. Photo: T. Anderson/OSHC|
by Todd Anderson
Playing in their ninth back-to-back game of the season, the Ottawa Senators can leapfrog over the Montreal Canadiens in the standings tonight with a win in the first game of a home-and-home series against their Northeast Division rivals. The Senators have already moved on from last night's 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres and the focus is now set on the Canadiens, whom they'll also visit on Saturday.
"We've got to step it up. The time is now," forward Chris Neil said this morning. "When you look at the standings, it's so close. Every game is so big. Tonight's a four-point night, and so is Saturday. Montreal is playing well right now. We've just got to go play our style of hockey."
While centre Jason Spezza feels his club has played well in the past couple of games, he knows it's important to remain focused on every little detail at this time of year.
"It's a game of inches. (Buffalo) gets a break last night on the power play, and that's the difference," Spezza said. "There are 10 teams playing desperate hockey right now. It's a dogfight. You can't take any games off.
"We just have to persevere and make sure we play consistent hockey. We've been in hockey games, it's not like we're getting blown out. It's just with a bounce here, or a bounce there, you could be fighting for a playoff spot or be in a pretty secure spot."
Senators head coach Bryan Murray says the time is now for his leaders to take charge, especially offensively.
"Your good players have to be your good players. (Dany) Heatley, (Daniel) Alfredsson, Spezza, (Mike) Fisher, players of that nature, have to be productive."
Ray Emery will start in goal for Ottawa tonight, attempting to tie a career high with his 23rd victory of the season.