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Senators anxious to turn tide in Buffalo

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
BUFFALO — They've been down this road before and enjoyed the ride more often than not.

What better time, the Ottawa Senators figure, to get the good times rolling again than Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200), where they've enjoyed more than their share of success in recent years. And often at moments when they truly need to find a way to get a victory.

"We have confidence there and that's the big thing," head coach Cory Clouston said earlier today, before the Senators headed off to the Queen City for the first of back-to-back matchups with Northeast Division opponents. "We play well in that barn. And we get some good goaltending in there. I think Brian (Elliott) has a lot of confidence in that building and against that team.

"You combine those two factors and that's going to give you some success. We hope that continues."

Added forward Nick Foligno, a Buffalo native: "We go in there with a game plan and we just stick to it. This is going to be a great test for us, to prove that we can do that. They're a tough team to match up against — they've got a lot of skill and a lot of hard workers. But it's always a different game every time you go in there."

But given the fact that they're sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record — the Sabres moved to 2-4-1 by dumping the Thrashers 4-1 in Atlanta on Wednesday night — the Senators know it'll take more than relying on history to produce a much-needed win at HSBC Arena.

"We know (the Sabres) are good and we've had some good battles with them," said centre Jason Spezza. "And we know they can embarrass you if you're not ready."

Only one lineup change is definite for Friday so far. That would be the insertion into the lineup of veteran blueliner David Hale, who was summoned yesterday from the Binghamton Senators. With 300-plus games of National Hockey League experience under his belt, Hale is being looked upon to provide a stabilizing influence on the Ottawa blue line.

"I'm not really offensive (minded). I'm not flashy," said Hale. "Hopefully, I can bring some consistency, play solid and be dependable."

With the Montreal Canadiens up next on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), a win in Buffalo could provide a springboard for a turnaround type of weekend.

"It's a big game," said Foligno. "There's no way around it. We want to win and we need this win. I think we had a great week of practice (in Ottawa) and we worked hard on some things we needed to fix. I think the guys are in good spirits.

"It's just a matter of going out there and doing what we know we can do and playing a solid game. That (means) everyone doing their job and not trying to do too much. If we do that. we're going to find ourselves winning a lot of games."

Around the boards

Goaltender Pascal Leclaire (pulled groin) took another step toward returning to the ice by skating without equipment prior to practice this morning. But Clouston admitted "it's still an injury you can't predict" in terms of how quickly it will heal completely. "It's almost a day-by-day situation," said Clouston. "(Leclaire) progressed and he did some things today. If he comes out of this skate properly, we'll just keep advancing. It won't be that much longer." ... Friday is Hockey Fights Cancer night in Buffalo and it'll be the same on Saturday at Scotiabank Place, with fans in Ottawa having the opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind merchandise in support of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

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