|Forward Jarkko Ruutu says the Senators have put the disappointment of missing the playoffs last season behind them (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images). |
The puck drops on four fronts tonight as the National Hockey League officially opens its doors to the arrival of the 2009-10 season.
For the Ottawa Senators, however, the wait lasts a few days longer. And with nearly a week having gone by since their last game action, the level of excitement is continuing to build as Saturday's regular-season opener against the Rangers in New York (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) draws closer.
Let's just say the opening faceoff at Madison Square Garden can't come soon enough.
"Once we start watching the games tonight, (we'll start thinking) it'll be nice to start playing some of our own," centre Jason Spezza
said after he and his teammates went though a spirited workout Thursday morning at the Kanata Recreation Complex.
Senators head coach Cory Clouston admitted he's eager to get it going for real, too.
"It's been a long camp," he said. "From our last game (a Sept. 25 pre-season tilt with the Boston Bruins) to now, it's probably been too long for us. It'll end up being eight days. It would have been nice to have a game in between, just to keep the rust away.
"You can only practise for so long. We designed our eight days so we had a couple of days of team building, a tough dry-land session yesterday and four good on-ice days. We wanted to make sure the guys were sharp mentally and we feel we accomplished that."
Today, the focus was on specialty teams, more specifically the power play. On Friday, Clouston and the players will begin zeroing in on what needs to be done against the Rangers, who added former Minnesota Wild sniper Marian Gaborik to their arsenal in the off-season.
Most importantly, it'll mark the beginning of a campaign that the Senators hope and believe will end with a return to the post-season.
"We're all excited to get going," said centre Mike Fisher. "It's been a good week. We did a lot of fun stuff as a team and had some good practices and workouts. But we all just want to get going. It's been a long time.
"It's a season where we feel we've got a lot to prove, but we feel confident coming into it that we're a much improved team. We're looking forward to getting going and we think it's going to be a great year."
Added defenceman Chris Phillips
: "Guys are pretty excited for the season to start. It was pretty upbeat today with a lot of intensity. We're just looking forward to it starting."
With as many as seven new faces in the opening-night lineup, the Senators have clearly turned the page on a campaign which saw Ottawa miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 1995-96.
"We're all excited to get going. It's been a good week. We did a lot of fun stuff as a team and had some good practices and workouts. But we all just want to get going. It's been a long time. It's a season where we feel we've got a lot to prove, but we feel confident coming into it that we're a much improved team." - Mike Fisher
"We've forgotten last season already and now we just have to learn from it," said forward Jarkko Ruutu. "We have to get off to a good start. You just have to build for the little things, like we did at the end of last year.
"We started winning games because we were doing the little things as a team. Winning is a habit, just like losing is a habit."
Now it's a matter of getting into the game habit once again. With the two-week Winter Olympic break compressing the schedule for everyone, it'll happen soon enough.
"The week off is better now than once the season starts," said Spezza. "That's kind of been my thought all (this) week. Instead of getting two games in and waiting a week, it's better to wait a week and then get a lot of games in a row."
Around the boards
Fisher sat out today's practice to let some "bumps and bruises" heal but says he'll be ready to roll against the Rangers ... Forward Jesse Winchester
(right knee) returned to the ice today but remains about two weeks away from being game ready. "He's actually ahead of schedule, to be honest," said Clouston. "The day after the injury, we thought it might be a little slower than this. We think he's progressed very well." ... The Senators will unveil the name of their second alternate captain Friday.