by Todd Anderson
After opening the pre-season with a 5-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night in Halifax, N.S., the Ottawa Senators make their pre-season home debut tonight against provincial rival Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tonight's Senators lineup features players who have been skating with Group 2 at this year's training camp, except for defenceman Charlie Cook, who isn't scheduled to play, and Michal Barinka, who worked the blueline with Group 1 last night in Halifax.
The game marks the first outing - except for last Sunday's red and white intra-squad match - for fans to see, among others, goaltender Martin Gerber, 2002 second-round draft pick Alexei Kaigorodov and defenceman Tom Preissing in action at Scotiabank Place this season.
Senators head coach Bryan Murray was impressed with the effort from Group 1 last night in Pittsburgh and he expects a similar display tonight at home from Group 2.
"You look at the game last night and a couple of guys stepped up. I think the same thing will happen tonight. Players worked hard and paid the price. Group 1 won last night so now there's a lot of pressure on Group 2 to do the same thing."
As Gerber's former general manager with the Anaheim Ducks, Murray spoke about what Gerber's teammates and fans can expect from him.
"Definitely there'll be more pressure on him than there was in Anaheim or Carolina (Hurricanes). He's a real poised guy. I know he'll be a real solid (goaltender) for us. He's a good guy who is respected tremendously because of his effort."
Tonight's game also features the debut of a new defensive pairing comprising sophomore Andrej Meszaros and nine-year veteran Chris Phillips. Murray feels the players will benefit each other's game.
"Andrej is coming into his second year and will only get better. His energy level is going to help Chris. Chris, with his experience and poise, is going to help Andrej. Chris is a real stable guy."
Last season the Senators recorded a successful regular-season series against the Leafs, winning 7-1-0.