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Senators coach aiming for a happy homecoming

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators head coach Paul MacLean still looks back fondly upon his playing days with the Winnipeg Jets, but none of that will matter during tonight's game at the MTS Centre (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

Paul MacLean insists this isn't an evening for much in the way of sentiment.

For the first time in more than a decade, the Ottawa Senators head coach will step behind a bench in Winnipeg — the city in which he enjoyed his greatest success as a National Hockey League player back in the 1980s. But MacLean and his team would love to do nothing more than spoil the party for the passionate fans savouring every bit of a hockey renaissance in the Manitoba capital.

"it's a brand new building for me," MacLean said following the Senators' pre-game skate in advance of tonight's matchup with the born again Jets at a sold-out MTS Centre (8:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "It's a great city, though. I had a lot of good times myself at the old Winnipeg Arena, but this is a brand new place and a brand new generation.

"Although I'm excited for the fans of the Winnipeg Jets to have their team back, we're here to win a game for ourselves."

Tonight's game represents the opener of a three-game road trip for the Senators (11-10-2), who's like to carry over some of the momentum from Sunday's 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Place. But the Jets, who have won three straight on home ice, don't figure to make it easy on the visitors in front of what should be another raucous crowd at the MTS Centre.

"We were out and about on the town yesterday, and a lot of people told us to bring earplugs," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "It's quite electric in here and enthusiastic, and it's always fun to play in those circumstances.

"When you have a crowd like that, you want to do everything you can to keep them as quiet as possible. Get off to a good start, get in their end and play physical ... that's going to be important."

MacLean's last coaching experience in Winnipeg came back in the late-1990s, when he brought the Kansas City Blades of the old International Hockey League into the Winnipeg Arena — which was demolished after the opening of the MTS Centre — to face the Manitoba Moose. He admits now it's a career path he hadn't pondered during his days with the old Jets.

"Absolutely not," said MacLean. "I wasn't a student of the game at that point in time. A lot of people I played with are probably surprised that I'm standing here (as a coach)."

Though he won't spend too much time reflecting on it today, MacLean said he'll always look back upon his time in Winnipeg with the old Jets with fondness.

"Other than the weather and (the fact) my youngest son was born here ... the time I spent here with the fans was great," said MacLean, a three-time 40-goal scorer with the Jets who posted a career-high 101 points in 1984-85. "They were always very honest with me with how I was doing. The seven years I played here, I got to play with some great players like Dale Hawerchuk.

"I got to work with a good man in John Ferguson and it was nothing but a great time."

Around the boards

Craig Anderson, who starts in goal tonight, stopped 35 shots and recorded his 100th career NHL victory back on Oct. 20, when Ottawa dumped the Jets 4-1 at Scotiabank Place to begin a six-game winning streak ... When the Senators last visited Winnipeg, they dropped a 6-2 decision to the old Jets on Feb. 8, 1996 ... Ottawa forward Milan Michalek and defenceman Filip Kuba are both one point shy of reaching the 300 mark for their NHL careers ... Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson holds the league lead in assists (20) and tops all NHL blueliners in points (21) ... Ottawa continues its road trip Thursday in Dallas against the Stars (8:30 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200) before wrapping it up Saturday against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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