|Matt Carkner and the Senators hope to finish off 2009 with a victory over the New York Islanders tonight at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images).
The Ottawa Senators hope to give themselves one more victory to toast before ringing in the new year together.
The Senators put a wrap on 2009 tonight at Scotiabank Place, facing off against John Tavares and the New York Islanders (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) for the first time since the teams met in Ottawa's home-opener way back on Oct. 8. No doubt a repeat of the victory the Sens earned that evening would be just the right appetizer for the team meal they'll share afterward to celebrate New Year's Eve.
Not that it'll be easy sledding for Ottawa (20-16-4) against an Islanders team (16-18-7) that only trails the Senators by five points in the Eastern Conference standings.
"It's so tight in the conference and every night is a big night," Senators defenceman Matt Carkner
said earlier today. "We need all the points we can get, so we've just got to keep moving forward here and know the importance of these games.
"Coming into the new year, we've got to take as many as we can."
There is also the opportunity to quickly bounce back from Wednesday night's 4-3 home-ice loss to the Colorado Avalanche, in which the Senators nearly came all the way back to wipe out a three-goal deficit in the third period.
"It was just one of those nights," said Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who'll make his fifth straight start tonight. "I don’t think we played badly (against Colorado), it’s just that whenever we made a mistake, we paid for it. But they’re going to happen and the good thing is, we’re playing (again) right away and we can forget about it and really focus on tonight’s game.
"We fought hard but we just ran out of time and a little bit of luck, too. But we’re not worried. We know what we’re capable of and we should be all right."
Added forward Milan Michalek
: "We didn't get off to a good start but at the end, we played well. Hopefully, we can (carry) that over to tonight."
Of course, any visit by the Islanders puts the focus on rookie standout John Tavares, who has a team-leading 16 goals and 28 points. Needless to say, the Senators don't want to see a repeat of last New Year's Eve, when Tavares' hat-trick rallied Team Canada past Team USA in a 7-4 thriller at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship at Scotiabank Place.
"It's so tight in the conference and every night is a big night. We need all the points we can get, so we've just got to keep moving forward here and know the importance of these games. Coming into the new year, we've got to take as many as we can." - Matt Carkner
"They’ve got a world-class, elite young player who’s proven that he can be a very good player already," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of Tavares. "He can control a game at times around the net – he’s very smart around the net.
"So we know it’s a tough challenge, especially when we played last night. But we’ve had good games when we’ve played back-to-back. We’ve just got to come out hungry from the drop of the puck."
One guy who's certainly sending out 2009 in a big way is Senators forward Ryan Shannon. After going goal-less in his first 29 outings this season, the speedy 26-year-old from Darien, Conn., has found the back of the net four times in Ottawa's last three games.
"There was a lot of weight on me when I wasn't scoring for those 29 games," said Shannon. "When you finally start scoring, you see the light and it's actually a lot of fun. I'm playing well."Around the boards
Clouston didn't announce any lineup changes for tonight but suggested "there might be a few" by game time ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for tonight's game ... The Senators' current homestand concludes with games Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers (1 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) and Tuesday versus the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).