|The New Jersey Devils' official website is reporting that Devils captain Patrik Elias, above, will not play in Game 1 tonight. Photo: B. Bennett/Getty Images/NHLI|
by Todd Anderson
The wait is over. After being off for seven days, the Ottawa Senators will continue their drive to a Stanley Cup championship tonight when they start their Eastern Conference semifinal against the New Jersey Devils.
The Senators are looking for revenge after losing to the Devils in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference championship in 2003. Senators head coach Bryan Murray says a lot has changed for both teams since that series.
"It's a clean slate. It's a different group," Murray says. "We don't have the same people from four years ago when they played and (the Devils) have a number of different people. We think we're a better hockey club (than in 2003)."
The Senators ride into Round 2 on a high after dominating the Pittsburgh Penguins in a five-game quarter-final victory. Murray says as good as his team was in the opening series, it will be crucial for the players to keep elevating their play as they advance in the playoffs.
"I think every round you have to upgrade," Murray says. "You have to really focus more. You have to make adjustments as you go along."
Senators forward Patrick Eaves (head injury) didn't travel with the team to New Jersey, so no lineup changes are expected for Ottawa in the first two games of the series. According to the Devils' official website, however, New Jersey captain Patrik Elias won't play in Game 1 because of a cold. Murray says the absence of Elias should not affect his players' focus.
"(Elias is) a good player and he's an important player for them, but we just have to plan to play the way we have to play. Hopefully, we'll take advantage of it at some time in the game but we can't be concerned with who's dressed for them, or not dressed for them."