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Senators begin pointing toward new season start

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators head coach Paul MacLean says his team's focus will shift to "details of the game within the game" as the it prepares for the Oct. 7 season-opener in Detroit (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

The dress rehearsals are finally out of the way.

Now it's time for the Ottawa Senators to get the cast primed and ready for opening night on the big stage.

Thursday night's 2-1 road triumph over the Boston Bruins brought the curtain down on the Senators' pre-season schedule, which Ottawa finished with a 3-3-1 record. Now they've got a full week to ramp up for their 2011-12 opener against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

With head coach Paul MacLean hoping to set his final roster this weekend — 30 players still remain with the Senators at the moment — the down time between now and Oct. 7 figures to be well used in terms of some last-minute fine tuning before the games begin for real.

"This team has worked real hard," MacLean said in assessing the Senators' efforts in training camp. "We've got them to build a foundation that's going to give us success down the road. I think their work ethic has been real good and I'm pretty pleased with the steps we've taken to become a good team. Now we have to continue to do it on a daily basis.

"All though training camp, we've been doing the big picture part of systems. Next week, we're going to get down to more of the details of the game within the game — faceoff alignments, different power-play sets and penalty kill sets. More of the dot the I's and cross the T's type of thing, as opposed to the generalities of the game, now that we're down to the working group that's going to be ours, and start to implement a lot more of the details of the game."

MacLean gave the players a full day off today, but they'll be back on the ice Saturday — an 11 a.m. practice session which will be preceded by the unveiling of the Senators' new heritage jersey as part of the Puck Drop event for fans at Scotiabank Place. They'll continue to work at home until Tuesday afternoon, then head to London, Ont., for a day before making their way to the Motor City.

In the absence of another pre-season game earlier in the week, it's an opportunity for some team bonding before embarking on a new campaign.

"We like to play," Senators centre Zenon Konopka said with an eye toward a week without any game action. "We like to play instead of practice, and I think anyone that doesn't say that is lying to you. So yeah, we'd like to play instead, but I think it's important for us to get away, to get to London as a team and pull together.

"We've got a lot of young guys in here and there's a lot of leadership qualities that are in need, so it's going to be great to get to know each other a little better."

Starting goaltender Craig Anderson, who showed top form in turning aside 39-of-40 shots against the Bruins on Thursday night, said the Senators simply need to make the best of the time they'll have before opening night.

"I'd be nice to have one more (pre-season game), maybe on Monday or so," he said. "It's just the way it's worked out. But we'll use the practice time wisely to get our systems in place and just sort out some of the things we need to sort out."

Around the boards

For those unable to attend Saturday's open practice at Scotiabank Place, including the unveiling of the Senators' new heritage uniform, a live web stream will be made available here at ottawasenators.com, as well as on our Facebook page and Sens TV. The streaming begins at 10:20 a.m., about 10 minutes before the start of on-ice activities ... The Senators open the 2011-12 season with back-to-back road games — Oct. 7 in Detroit, then Oct. 8 in Toronto — before their home-opener Oct. 11 vs. Minnesota Wild at Scotiabank Place. As part of a season-long 20th anniversary celebration, the 1992-93 expansion Sens team will be honoured that night. 


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