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Senators aim to make most of final season tuneup

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators goaltender Craig Anderson is slated to play the full 60 minutes tonight in the team's final game of the pre-season against the Bruins at TD Garden in Boston. Ottawa opens its regular schedule Oct. 7 in Detroit against the Red Wings (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

It's not the real deal yet.

But in some ways, tonight's pre-season finale against the Bruins at TD Garden in Boston (7 p.m., NHL Centre Ice) is a big deal in the Ottawa Senators' world. Especially with the team looking at an eight-day game between this matchup and the Oct. 7 season-opener in Detroit against the Red Wings.

Senators head coach Paul MacLean is especially eager to see how his team stacks up against a a Boston roster that includes most of the key players in the Bruins' run to the Stanley Cup crown back in June. That certainly wasn't the case last Wednesday, when Ottawa scored a 2-1 victory on the strength of rookie Mika Zibanejad's overtime winner.

"We’re going to see the progress that we’ve made in training camp and the structure of our team and the work ethic of our team," head coach Paul MacLean said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today at Scotiabank Place. "We’re pretty close to what our team will finally be tonight and I believe Boston’s lineup is very similar as well, so it’s going to be a good test for us. We’re going to see how much work we still have to do."

For starting goaltender Craig Anderson, it's a chance to get in a full 60 minutes of work for just the second time before the regular schedule begins. He had been slated to handle netminding duties on Tuesday against the Leafs but was held out for "maintenance" reasons. But the extra rest, Anderson said, has him feeling in top form again.

"I wouldn't be out there if I wasn't feeling 100 per cent," said Anderson, who's expected to carry a heavy goaltending load this season. "I’m eager to get in there, get back on the road and get in a game in a different building. I’m looking forward to it and just getting into a rhythm and getting to know the guys back there. We’ve got some new faces in the lineup, so I'm looking forward to communicating with them and seeing how they’re playing in front of me.

"(It's about) just getting a feel for the puck and just getting the 60 minutes. Sometimes early in the season, you start playing exhibition and you start (by) playing half games. I just want to get back in the momentum of playing the whole 60 minutes and get used to that feeling of playing the whole 60 minutes."

Also itching to get back into the lineup is veteran centre Zenon Konopka, who saw action in the Sept. 19 pre-season opener in Toronto but has been dealing with a stiff back. But the former Ottawa 67's star relishes the chance to get one more game in before they count for real.

"You build toward the season and you'e excited for exhibition games," he said. "To only play one up until now is pretty frustrating, but it's great to be back in the lineup ... It's a big game for me. I've got to be ready to play Game 1 of the regular season, so I'm taking this real serious and I really want to get my legs (under me), get my faceoffs in order and really bring a lot of energy to the team."

He's just as serious about the thought of ending the pre-season on a winning note.

"(The Bruins) are dressing a great lineup tonight and they're the defending Stanley Cup champions," said Konopka. "Any time you can go into their building and, if we can get two points tonight ... it's big for us. We're going to give it one heck of an effort tonight, that's for sure."

Around the boards

The Senators' lines during the pre-game skate: Colin Greening-Jason Spezza-Nikita Filatov, Milan Michalek-Mika Zibanejad-Daniel Alfredsson, Nick Foligno-Zack Smith-Bobby Butler, and Erik Condra-Zenon Konopka-Chris Neil ... Veteran blueliners Chris Phillips and Matt Carkner are remain out with minor ailments, but MacLean is "still optimistic" both will be ready for opening night ... Goaltender Mike McKenna has been re-assigned to the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators, leaving 30 players still in camp ... The B-Sens broke camp today at Scotiabank Place and open their AHL pre-season with a pair of games against the Hamilton Bulldogs, on Friday in Victoriaville, Que., and Saturday in Drummondville, Que. ... NHL Centre Ice has picked up the New England Sports Network (NESN) feed for tonight's Sens-Bruins game and it's available free of charge to Rogers digital (channel 456 and 487 HD) and Bell TV customers.

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