|Senators goaltender Ray Emery is swarmed by media after today's optional skate. Game 1 of the quarter-final series against Pittsburgh goes tonight at Scotiabank Place. Photo: T. Anderson/OSHC|
by Todd Anderson
After signing a four-year contract extension with the Ottawa Senators this morning, defenceman Chris Phillips says his sole focus can now be placed on the playoffs. It's good timing for the Senators with the Pittsburgh Penguins in town to begin the quarter-final series at Scotiabank Place tonight.
"I just came back from the offices and everything is signed up now. I guess that makes it official," Phillips said this morning after an optional skate for the Senators. "I'm obviously ecstatic that we're able to get something done and for the length of the term. I'm very happy about it."
Phillips' blueline partner, Anton Volchenkov, signed a three-year extension on Monday, and general manager John Muckler is excited to have both players locked up.
"I feel it is very important to get it done before the playoffs," Muckler says of the deals. "Getting Volchie done (on Monday) and Philly today sends the right signals. It's just another positive thing that has happened to our hockey club over the last two or three months. We wanted to show everybody we're committed to this hockey club. I thought it would be positive going into the playoffs. It's been nothing but positive vibes."
The duo will face a big challenge starting tonight when they'll butt heads with the NHL's leading scorer, Sidney Crosby.
"We're going to work very hard at trying to limit (Crosby's) chances," says Senators head coach Bryan Murray. "We have a good pair of defencemen, and as often as we can get them on the ice against him, at home in particular, we'll try to do that."
While the Senators and Penguins finished this season's scoring race second and third, respectively, Buffalo finished first Sens goaltender Ray Emery doesn't expect too many blowouts in the series.
"It's going to be a fast-paced game but I don't expect there to be too many mistakes," Emery says.
Penguins head coach Michel Therrien says his coaching strategy won't change in the playoffs.
"We've never put it as a must-win (game)," Therrien said this morning. "That's always been our philosophy and it'll be the same tonight."
Murray doesn't expect too many changes either, on the ice at least.
"You guys are different, that's the difference," Murray said to reporters during his news conference this morning. "The media attention, the scrutiny, the individual breakdown will be recognized much more than the regular season. Lots of attention will be paid to (the players). The good players really want that. They thrive on being recognized for what they can do."