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Senators aiming to extend mastery in Montreal

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Forward Alex Kovalev believes the Senators have the necessary talent to have a dangerous power play, which could pay huge dividends throughout the season (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

MONTREAL— Nobody would ever go so far as to suggest it's become their home away from home.

But there is no doubt the Ottawa Senators have found some kind of magic at Montreal's Bell Centre in recent times. The Sens went 3-0-0 in the Canadiens' home building in 2009-10 and hope to add to that regular-season streak tonight, when the Northeast Division rivals meet for the first time in the current campaign (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

Not that the Senators can easily explain this kind of road success.

"I have no idea," captain Daniel Alfredsson said with a grin when asked about the Senators' dominance in a building that he rates among his favourite road venues in the National Hockey League. "It's a fun building to play in, with the atmosphere and the rivalry we have with Montreal. We know it's always tough games (between us) and they play hard, so we've got to be ready."

Head coach Cory Clouston believes it's been a matter of the Senators dictating the style of play and taking care of business at both ends of the ice.

"We just played our game," he said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "We got good goaltending. We have confidence against these guys. We know it's a real tough game, but we get excited about playing here in Montreal. It's always a great atmosphere and we feel we match up great against them.

"But they're never easy games. They're very competitive and both teams skate well. Both teams have their goaltenders where they want them to be. Brian (Elliott) can gain a lot of confidence off his game (a 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday in relief of injured starter Pascal Leclaire) and (Carey) Price gains confidence off his win last night (2-1 in Buffalo). He wasn't challenged a lot but when he was, he was there for them."

After a pair of discouraging losses to start the season, the Senators can feel their game is currently on the upswing. A 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on Monday turned the tide and the win over the Hurricanes has the team liking the direction in which it's headed going into the two-game road trip that starts tonight and carries on Monday to Pittsburgh.

"We've liked our last two games," said Clouston. "We've played a lot more like we feel we need to play. We've been a lot more responsible defensively and also a lot more dangerous in the offensive zone."

Added centre Jason Spezza: "We played a pretty strong game as a team (Thursday) and now we're excited about coming into this building. It's always a great atmosphere to play in and a great rivalry for us."

Always encouraging Thursday was the first signs of life shown by the Senators power-play, which ended a three-game drought on the game-winning goal by Mike Fisher. Now they're looking to carry that success forward into tonight's matchup.

"It's hard to see, when we have so much talent on the team," forward Alex Kovalev said about the power play's early-season struggles. "We're not scoring the power-plays goals, but we're working hard on it. We've talked about it a lot pretty much before each practice. We're trying to come up with a solution.

"(Power-play success) is going to help us down the road ... It depends on how much you want it. If we want it hard enough, we're going to get out of it and start scoring."

Around the boards

Robin Lehner has been summoned from the Binghamton Senators to back up Elliott tonight. The move became necessary when starter Pascal Leclaire went down with a pulled groin two minutes into Thursday's win over Carolina ... The Senators' lines in practice during the pre-game skate: Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson, Nick Foligno-Mike Fisher-Chris Neil, Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Jesse Winchester and Ryan Shannon-Peter Regin-Alex Kovalev ... The Senators' two-game road trip concludes Monday with a visit to Pittsburgh and the Penguins' new home, the Consol Energy Center (7 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).

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