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Minnesota homecoming sweet for Sens' Lee

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
For the first time since Oct. 22, Brian Lee will suit up for a game for the Senators. And he'll do it in his home state tonight against the Minnesota Wild (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Check out the NHL game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Minnesota matchup.

Brian Lee couldn't have asked for a better homecoming wish.

For the first time in nearly two months, the 23-year-old blueliner will be a part of the Ottawa Senators lineup. And what better place to do it than in his home state tonight against the Minnesota Wild at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul (8 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).

"I'm just going to have fun," said Lee, a healthy scratch for the previous 25 games. "I haven't had a chance to play hockey for a long time, so I'll get a chance to go out there and have some fun."

Lee's family has made the four-hour drive from his hometown of Moorhead, Minn., for the occasion. He no doubt hopes for a repeat of the Senators' last visit to Minnesota, when his goal helped rally Ottawa to a 5-3 victory back on Feb. 14, 2009. The Sens trailed 3-0 early in that one.

"We were down three and I got kind of a lucky goal, which was great," said Lee, the Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. "It was tons of fun and I'm looking for more of the same tonight."

With Lee back in the lineup, defenceman Matt Carkner, who suffered a gash on his leg Tuesday when clipped by Erik Karlsson's skate, sits out against the Wild. With the Senators facing back-to-back road games — they're in Denver on Friday night to take on the Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) — head coach Cory Clouston elected to give Carkner a night of rest.

"It's a good time to get Brian in but also, I think it's a good time to give Matt the night off as well," said Clouston following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier this afternoon. "We want make sure we don't aggravate that."

Clouston also acknowledged that giving Lee a chance to play at home factored into the decision to insert the 6-3, 208-pound defenceman into the lineup for the first time since Oct. 22 in Buffalo.

"This is (Lee's) home crowd and he's got family here," said Clouston. "He just has to play simple, move his feet, be on the right side of the puck and move the puck properly ... just be solid."

The lengthy absence from game action hasn't been easy on Lee, who has also been the subject of trade talk. But Clouston praised the young blueliner for maintaining the right kind of attitude as he waited for his next opportunity.

"He's had a really good attitude," said Clouston. "He's worked hard in practice. There's only so much you can do in his situation and he's done everything that we've asked. We'll monitor his minutes and his play and go from there."

Said Lee: "I've just tried to work hard, help the guys wherever I could and stay ready. I'm happy I got the chance here today."

Around the boards

Pascal Leclaire will start in goal for the Senators tonight, while José Théodore gets the call for the Wild ... Ottawa is 6-2-1 all-time against Minnesota, including a 3-1-1 mark in St. Paul ... Defenceman Sergei Gonchar is one point shy of the 700 plateau for his career ... The Senators return home to face Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Sunday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

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