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Senators anxious for opening night at home

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators centre Jason Spezza says he'll know by game time whether he can suit up against the Buffalo Sabres in tonight's season-opener at Scotiabank Place. Spezza suffered a groin injury in practice Wednesday and hasn't been on the ice since (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images).

In every corner of the Ottawa Senators dressing room on a hockey day like no other, the sentiment all but bounced off the walls.

Let's get it started.

With training camp and a full slate of pre-season games behind them, the Senators dive into the 2010-11 campaign on home ice tonight (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200), facing the Buffalo Sabres in front of an expected sellout throng at Scotiabank Place. It's a day they've long awaited since their playoff run was ended by the Pittsburgh Penguins back in April.

"We're just excited to get going and play a game that means something," Senators forward Nick Foligno said following a team meeting earlier today. "I know we've been waiting for this for a long time and it'll be nice to play in front of our home crowd. It's always great to play in that atmosphere. It really puts a jump in your step.

"Opening night is great for everyone. It just starts the season off in the right way and, especially to be at home with our fans behind us ... we're going to really enjoy it."

Whether the Senators will have centre Jason Spezza in the lineup still remains to be seen. His status won't be determined until game time, with head coach Cory Clouston suggesting it's "probably 50-50" right now that he'll have his No. 1 pivot at his disposal against the Sabres.

Spezza, who tweaked his groin during practice Wednesday at the Bell Sensplex and hasn't been on the ice since then, did his best to sound hopeful when he met with the media. But he acknowledged "it's not the situation I wanted to be in" to start the season.

"I want to play but if the body doesn't let you play, it kind of makes the decision for you," said Spezza. "I wanted to get off to a good start and this isn't something you want to think about injury-wise at the start of the year. It happens, it's part of being a hockey player, but I'm not going to let it get myself down or the team down."

He's willing to sacrifice a few games at the beginning of the season to avoid long-term pain down the road.

"I want to play but if the body doesn't let you play, it kind of makes the decision for you. I wanted to get off to a good start and this isn't something you want to think about injury-wise at the start of the year. It happens, it's part of being a hockey player, but I'm not going to let it get myself down or the team down." - Jason Spezza
"I'll miss one or two games here if it (turns out that way) and you move on. It's better than missing a whole whack of games," said Spezza. "I don't want to put myself or the team in a bad position, where I'm going to hurt the team by missing more games or playing hurt. We'll see how it goes."

If Spezza isn't able to go tonight, Clouston indicated he'll likely use the same alignment the Senators displayed in practice Thursday: Mike Fisher flanked by Foligno and captain Daniel Alfredsson on the top line, with Milan Michalek, Peter Regin and Alex Kovalev on the second unit.

"We want to come out with a real good effort," said Clouston. "We talked about it this morning, that it's about us and right now, we need to be more concerned with what we're doing. Right now, we've got to make sure we're worried about ourselves and executing and not worried about the fanfare (of opening night) or what (the Sabres) are trying to do."

As far as the other piece of news that has occupied the minds of Senators fans in the days leading up to the opener, Clouston has tabbed Pascal Leclaire as his starter in goal tonight.

"He is supposed to be our go-to guy and we need to give him the opportunity to at least start Game 1," Clouston said of Leclaire. "I don't think Brian (Elliott) outplayed him (in the pre-season), so to speak. I think Pascal has come in with the right frame of mind and he put in the time over the summer. We need to give him an opportunity."

Leclaire surely welcomes that chance and is as eager as anyone to get the games started for real.

"I'm pretty excited, like everyone else," said the 27-year-old stopper from Repentigny, Que. "With the opener, you just want to get things going. Watching some games (on TV) last night, it kind of gives you the itch a little bit and you want to be a part of that. It's good that it's against a good team, a division rival, so we've got to make sure we're ready and we'll see what happens."

Around the boards

Rogers Sportsnet announced today it has reached a deal with Bell TV for carriage of Sportsnet One and its companion channel, Sportsnet Sens. That means Monday's matchup with the Capitals in Washington is now available to all digital TV customers in Ottawa. Rogers Cable and Shaw Direct (formerly Star Choice) earlier reached agreements to carry the new channel. The Senators will air 12 games on Sportsnet Sens this season ... Fewer than 750 tickets remain for tonight's game. A special pre-game ceremony is slated to begin at 7:15 p.m. ... The Sens' busy weekend also includes a contest Saturday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) ... Also getting their season started tonight are the Binghamton Senators, who open the American Hockey League campaign on home ice against the Adirondack Phantoms. The B-Sens are home again Saturday night, with the Norfolk Admirals supplying the opposition ... Forward Ryan Keller has been named Binghamton's captain. Cody Bass and Derek Smith will be alternate captains for all B-Sens home games, with Andre Benoit and Corey Locke handling those duties on the road.



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