|Craig Anderson and the Senators aim to break out of four-game winless skid when they face off against the Sabres tonight in Buffalo (Getty Images).
They'd never exactly refer to it as the friendly confines.
But past history surely gives the Ottawa Senators reason to feel confident as they open a five-game road trip tonight at First Niagara Center in Buffalo against the Sabres (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
The Senators have enjoyed their share of success in the past in the building formerly known as HSBC Arena. It's the rink, for example, where captain Daniel Alfredsson's hat trick — including his 1,000th career National Hockey League point — produced an Ottawa victory early in the 2010-11 season. And of course, it's the place where Alfredsson's overtime goal sent the Sens to the Stanley Cup final back in 2007.
"It's an arena we've had a lot of great games in and a lot of great rivalries," centre Jason Spezza said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "The crowd's good here, it's going to be a fast-paced game and that suits our team. We want to get started off on the right foot here with this road (trip)."
No doubt, the Senators (7-8-1) will be buoyed by the return of Alfredsson, who missed the previous five games with a concussion. It might be just the tonic that's needed for an Ottawa team that's winless in four, including a 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres at Scotiabank Place last Saturday.
"It gives us a 1-2 punch," said Senators head coach Paul MacLean. "He's a legitimate player who can score, and the other team can't just decide who to play against Jason Spezza. They might have to decide if they want to play someone against Daniel Alfredsson, and I think that changes the dynamics and the matchup of the game."
Added Spezza: "We're real happy to have Alfie back. This is a building where he's had some success and it definitely gives our team a jolt when maybe we need one because we're in a bit of a losing streak. It gives guys that added confidence knowing he's in the lineup."
The Sabres, meanwhile, are on a bit of roll coming into this one, having won three straight behind the play of backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who has supplanted Ryan Miller for the moment and will make another start tonight. Enroth foiled the Senators last Saturday during a shootout that lasted six rounds before Buffalo's Derek Roy finally notched the winner.
Now the visitors want to play streak buster tonight, while reversing their own fortunes to start a trip that carries on to Toronto for a Saturday night matchup with the Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). The Senators expect an early onslaught from the Sabres this evening.
"We've done pretty well (in Buffalo), but one of the reasons we've done so well is probably because we respect them a lot," said Alfredsson. "We know they're a very good team and you've got to be smart. They really put the pressure on you, especially in this building. So we're going to have to be really good in our end breaking out (so we don't) give them momentum."
Around the boards
MacLean confirmed winger Chris Neil suffered a sprained ankle during Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers. The rugged forward didn't travel with the team for the first leg of its road trip and won't be available tonight or Saturday. "We will evaluate it (further) when we get home," said MacLean ... Craig Anderson (6-5-1, 3.47 GAA) gets the start in goal for Ottawa ... The Binghamton Senators face the Hamilton Bulldogs in an AHL contest Sunday at 1 p.m. at Scotiabank Place. Tickets start at $12 and are available through www.CapitalTickets.ca.