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One for the road for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Never mind the Battle of Ontario, at least not just yet.

The Ottawa Senators know they have some rather serious business to deal with first right at home before even pondering the renewal of their provincial rivalry with the Maple Leafs on Saturday night in Toronto.

Before then, though, the Anaheim Ducks visit Scotiabank Place on Friday night (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200) to close out the Senators' current five-game homestand. Even though the Ducks are only 2-5-0 out of the gate -- and needed a shootout to get past the Leafs on Tuesday -- head coach Craig Hartsburg knows full well that a major challenge awaits his team.

"(The Ducks) have some players that are top players that maybe haven't played their best hockey yet and that's always a concern, that all of a sudden those guys play their best against you," he said. "But we expect that. They're a good team and there's no reason we should be thinking anything other than it's going to be a battle. We're going to have to play our best game."

For sure, any thoughts about the Leafs will be put aside until after tonight's matchup is put to bed.

"We'll worry about that one tomorrow," Hartsburg said about Saturday's first meeting of the season with the Leafs. "I think we've got a pretty good battle going on here today. Right now, we've got to find ways every day to be better and tonight is our next challenge."

At 2-3-1, the Senators surely want to add to their win column before hitting the road for a four-game trip that will take them to Toronto and Buffalo before heading south for a pair a contests in Florida against the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

"We're trying to get wins and you'll see two desperate teams trying to get those two points," said Senators forward Dany Heatley. "We know (the Ducks) are still a very good team, even though they're off to a slow start. We have to play our game for a full 60 minutes, whoever we're playing, to win games."

Alex Auld will make his first start in goal for the Senators since Oct. 5, when he pitched a near-shutout at the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-1 victory in Stockholm. He's not concerned about rust being an issue tonight.

"I felt really good that game," said Auld. "Maybe it's been awhile but at the same time, it was my last game and I want to keep moving forward from that and build on it. But even more important is the work I've put in every day (since then) just waiting for this and being ready."

Hartsburg has been preaching since the start of the week about the Senators' need to compete harder. While he saw some positives in that area during Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers, Hartsburg thinks the Ducks present a bigger test in that area.

"We're playing a team that has a reputation of being hard to play against," he said. "That might be the best thing for us, getting into a real hard physical game and competitive game."

Around the boards

Tonight's game marks the first regular-season meeting between the teams at Scotiabank Place since Jan. 19, 2006, when Chris Kunitz's shootout goal gave Anaheim a 4-3 win ... Shean Donovan returns to the lineup tonight, with Christoph Schubert the healthy scratch ... Defenceman Filip Kuba, who has a team-leading eight assists, is on a six-game point-scoring streak ... Fewer than 500 tickets are available for the game ... It's also United Way/Centraide Ottawa Night, with the Sens Foundation pledging to match up to $20,000 of all in-game donations.

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