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'Measuring stick' awaiting Sens

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
With Anton Volchenkov sidelined for tonight, the Senators are counting on Brian Lee (55) to help fill the void against the Capitals (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

The Ottawa Senators' recent run of stingy defensive play figures to get the supreme test tonight.

When the Senators line up against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200), they'll stare across the ice at the National Hockey League's most potent attack. The Caps also happen to own the league's best record (27-5-4) on home ice.

All of which figures to be quite the roadblock for a Senators team that is back to playing some of its best hockey of the season. Ottawa ran off four straight wins last week and, behind the stellar goaltending of Brian Elliott, allowed only four goals in the process.

"Their record speaks for itself," said Elliott, who'll make his fifth straight start tonight. "We just have to go out there, (see it) as a challenge and try to use it as a measuring stick."

Unfortunately for Elliott, he won't have one of his best buddies on the blue line available to help stem the tide. Shutdown defenceman Anton Volchenkov (upper body), who is still feeling the effects of a collision with fellow blueliner Andy Sutton during Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers, won't play tonight.

"I think he had 15 blocks the last game against them, so you’re going to miss a guy like that," Elliott said of Volchenkov. "But having (Sutton) in the lineup … he’s a good shot blocker and other guys will step up and try to take that role a little bit more."

Filling the void in the lineup will be Binghamton Senators callup Brian Lee, though he won't exactly be asked to provide a carbon copy of Volchenkov's feisty play.

"It's just (a matter of) keeping his game simple," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said following the team's pre-game skate earlier today. "He’s been here before, he’s had success. Last year, he was very solid for us. It’s been an up and down season for him this year. But the past is the past and he’s got to look forward at what he needs to do tonight.

"It's just (a matter of) keeping his game simple. He’s been here before, he’s had success. Last year, he was very solid for us. It’s been an up and down season for him this year. But the past is the past and he’s got to look forward at what he needs to do tonight." - Cory Clouston
"The big thing is moving his feet. If he can get back and retrieve pucks as quick as he possibly can … don’t try to do too much, don’t hang on to the puck too long. If there’s an open man, give it to the open guy and just be real solid with his technique. Just being strong defensively is what we need him to do."

Expect Lee to be paired with veteran Chris Phillips tonight for the most part.

"Just because one guy goes down, you don’t need to alter all three of your pairings," said Clouston. "With two of those three (pairings) right now, we have pretty good chemistry and they’re playing well. We don’t want to disrupt it.

"But when you get into power plays or penalty kills or 4-on-4 (situations), you have to be able to juggle. You have to be able to play with different guys in different situations."

Around the boards

A win over the Capitals tonight, combined with losses by the Atlanta Thrashers and New York Rangers, will clinch a playoff spot for the Senators ... Forwards Shean Donovan and Ryan Shannon are tonight's healthy scratches ... Milan Michalek (left knee) and defenceman Filip Kuba (lower body) remain out, though Clouston suggested Monday that both could be good to go sometime next week ... Ottawa's lines during the pre-game skate: Peter Regin-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson, Matt Cullen-Mike Fisher-Alex Kovalev, Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Chris Neil and Nick Foligno-Zack Smith-Jesse Winchester ... The Senators are back home Thursday to face the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Fewer than 2,500 tickets remain for the game, which has been designated as Fan Appeciation Night, with a number of giveaways planned.

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