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Homestand continues with back-to-back games against Leafs

by Staff Writer / Ottawa Senators
"We have to be ready to work," Chris Neil says. "(The Leafs) have a few guys out right now, but they're a hard-working group. If we don't match their intensity, we'll be in trouble."

by Todd Anderson

Back-to-back home games against the Toronto Maple Leafs: it doesn't get much better for hockey fans.

On Friday morning, after returning to the Scotiabank Place from practice at the Bell Sensplex, the Senators were talking about the importance of the next couple of days.

"We've never seen this before," said defenceman Chris Phillips of the two consecutive matches against the Leafs. "The league is trying to create more excitement, not that it was needed with our games against Toronto."

Goaltender Dominik Hasek, who will start on Saturday, can't recall ever playing the same team on home ice in back-to-back games.

"It's the first time I ever have. It doesn't matter what team it is, or if it's at home. Our goal is to win both games."

The Maple Leafs have struggled with injuries of late and have dropped their last four games. Captain Daniel Alfredsson knows they don't want to drop too much further in the standings. He also wants to see his team be more consistent in its play.

"They're going to be a desperate team, and for us, we want to get back on track. The biggest thing for us is to get points and play the way we want to play. They have a good bunch of veterans over there, and if you give them too much time and space, they'll take advantage of it."

Rugged forward Chris Neil wasn't impressed with his team's effort during a 4-3 shootout loss on Thursday to kick off a five-game homestand. Despite suffering injury trouble right now, the Leafs should not be taken lightly.

"We have to be ready to work. If we played like we did last night, we'll be in trouble," Neil says. "(The Leafs) have a few guys out right now, but they're a hard-working group. If we don't match their intensity, we'll be in trouble."

Senators rookie Brian McGrattan, who had a memorable scrap with Toronto's Tie Domi earlier this season, knows there will be a special feeling during the next two games.

"We have to approach this like a playoff series and bring our A game," he says "We're going to try and get two wins and eight points in our next four home games. We have to come out of the gates flying and get pucks to the net. Bang and crash and set the tone."

Coach Bryan Murray had his big line of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley back together in practice. He's hoping the trio can rekindle their chemistry, which led to domination before Spezza went down with his pulled chest muscle.

"I wanted to get a game under Jason's belt (Spezza returned to action against Anaheim yesterday). Last night I broke up some lines that were playing well, and it looked like it. We gave up too many chances."

Injury report

Defenceman Wade Redden left practice on Friday, just after 15 minutes, as a pre-cautionary measure after experiencing tightness in his groin-area.

"I'll play," he later told reporters when asked about his status for Saturday.

Rookie Brandon Bochenski (separated shoulder) will remain out of the lineup.

Hasek's performance impresses teammates

Several teammates of Hasek spoke about the impressive 36-save performance he put together against Anaheim on Thursday.

"If it wasn't for Dom, we would've lost that game 10-2 or 10-3," Neil said.

Alfredsson is learning first-hand how much Hasek strives to be the best.

"The competitive level and drive to win, I think that's what keeps him going. He's been unbelievable for us, as good as he has ever been."

Spezza is a mere 18 years younger than Hasek. He feels age is not a factor with the Dominator though.

"Whatever he has on his birth certificate, it hasn't shown in his play. He's been our leader all year. He's the reason we got a point last night."

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