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New Senators eager for debut

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Alex Kovalev will put the red Senators jersey on for real for the first time Wednesday night, when Ottawa plays its pre-season home opener at Scotiabank Place against the Florida Panthers.
The Alex Kovalev era officially gets its start at Scotiabank Place tonight.

For that matter, the Ottawa Senators' pre-season matchup with the Florida Panthers tonight (7 p.m., Rogers 22, Team 1200) also represents the beginning of another chapter in the hockey life of Jonathan Cheechoo.

Turns out the two new Senators will share the experience together as linemates as Senators head coach Cory Clouston begins the process of trying to find some chemistry among his top six forwards.

"We want to look at some guys together and see if they have chemistry," Clouston said after the Senators' pre-game skate. "We don't have a lot of pre-season games, so we have to get right into it. We still have Milan (Michalek) to add to those top lines, so we have to see how it works out."

For tonight, at least, Nick Foligno will slide into the right-wing slot beside longtime linemates Jason Spezza and captain Daniel Alfredsson. And it'll be veteran Mike Fisher centring the two newcomers, free-agent signing Kovalev and Cheechoo, who was acquired along with Michalek in the weekend trade that sent Dany Heatley to the San Jose Sharks.

The highly-skilled Kovalev, who spent the last five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, is anxious to finally hit the ice with his new team.

"It's pretty exciting because it's been a long summer for me personally and for this team," he said. "It's time, I think, to start. How much time can you take?"

He's also eager to see how he'll fit in with the hard-working Fisher and Cheechoo, a one-time 56-goal scorer (in 2005-06) who hopes to resurrect his touch around the net with the Senators.

"Fish is a hard-working guy and Cheech is a goal scorer," said Kovalev. "People talk about how he doesn't score as many (goals) as he used to but, hopefully, we'll get him on the right track again. It'll be pretty exciting to see what happens tonight."

Cheechoo wore a wide smile as he talked about his linemates tonight.

"Those are two pretty good players I'm playing with," he said. "We'll play together tonight and, hopefully, we can do a little damage."

"Fish is a hard-working guy and Cheech is a goal scorer. People talk about how he doesn't score as many (goals) as he used to but, hopefully, we'll get him on the right track again. It'll be pretty exciting to see what happens tonight." - Alex Kovalev
Kovalev's high-end playmaking skills might be just the spark Cheechoo needs.

"What makes Kovalev such a great playmaker is his shot, too," said Cheechoo. "You have to respect it and a lot of times, (opponents) will leave a man open because of it. Hopefully, we can really click out there. I think it should be good."

Added Clouston: "Kovalev is very, very creative... He's a guy who can make other players around him better. He's got unbelievable vision, he's got great one-on-one skills and he's very good on the power play.

For his part, Fisher likes what the three new forwards can bring to the mix.

"I think they're excited to be here and be a part of something new," he said. "With Milan coming in here today, too, it looks like we're going to be a good team. We've added so much depth up front."

Around the boards

Brian Elliott and free-agent signing Mike Brodeur will split the goaltending duties tonight ... The other two line combinations during the pre-game skate: Zack Smith-Jim O'Brien-Ilya Zubov and Ryan Keller-Jesse Winchester-Jeremy Yablonski. The defence pairings: Anton Volchenkov-Chris Phillips, Filip Kuba-Tomas Kudelka and Erik Karlsson-Derek Smith ... Clouston said he expects to make another round of cuts on Thursday, prior to the Senators' home-and-home series with the Canadiens on Friday in Montreal (7:30 p.m., RDS, Team 1200) and Saturday at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers 22, Team 1200).

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