|The Ottawa Senators plan to shoot a lot of pucks on Roberto Luongo, above, when they host the Vancouver Canucks tonight. Photo: Getty Images|
by Todd Anderson
The NHL's two hottest teams face off tonight at Scotiabank Place, when the Ottawa Senators, 10-1-1 in their last 12 games, host the Vancouver Canucks, who are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games.
After a slow start this season, Ottawa's surge has them in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Canucks hold top spot in the tightly contested Northwest Division with 53 points - just one more point than the Calgary Flames and two more than the Minnesota Wild. As division leaders, the Canucks rank third in the Western Conference standings.
Senators head coach Bryan Murray is happy to see the Canucks arrive in Ottawa to test his club.
"I like the fact that it's a good team coming in," Murray said. "There's going to have to be energy, a good work ethic and real discipline in the game. There's no question Vancouver is playing great. They have a great goaltender (Roberto Luongo). They play back in the neutral zone and they trap you to death. They're the New Jersey (Devils) of the West in a lot of ways. They have people who handle the puck really well, and we have to pay attention to that."
Murray, who traded with the New York Islanders for the rights to Luongo in 2000 while serving as the general manager of the Florida Panthers, admires the talent of the goaltender.
"We knew he was a special talent when he came into the league, and I remember when I traded for him in Florida you just knew the future for this guy was very, very bright. Now he's one of the top goaltenders in the league. He makes big stops, he keeps his team in games every night. Like Ray Emery is doing for us."
Emery, who will start for Ottawa tonight, is looking forward to the challenge that tonight's game brings.
"It's two Canadian teams who maybe started a little slow and are playing well now. We want to win two games before the all-star break."
Senators forward Dany Heatley, who is tied for fifth in the NHL with 28 goals, sees similarities between his team and the Canucks.
"They're playing very well defensively right now, especially with (Luongo) back there," Heatley said after an optional skate this morning. "Luongo is a good goaltender so we have to shoot a lot of pucks at him tonight. (The Canucks are) playing as well as us right now so it should be a good matchup."