|Centre Jason Spezza says the week ahead is critical in terms of preparation if the team hopes to get its 2009-10 season off to a strong start (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
A hectic training camp is rapidly winding toward its conclusion.
And while the Ottawa's Senators haven't quite finalized their roster, head coach Cory Clouston admits there are more than jobs on the line in his team's pre-season finale Friday night against the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200).
"There's always kind of a two-fold objective for games like this," Clouston said after putting his team through a brisk workout earlier today. "You're trying to get some chemistry and (better) execution, but you're also evaluating players."
Already, though, it's very apparent the Sens bench boss is casting his eyes toward the regular-season opener Oct. 3 in New York against the Rangers. With eight days between Friday night's game and the visit to Madison Square Garden, it's vital for the Senators to make the most of this game opportunity.
"I think we're a better team (than last season), but the key there is becoming a team," he said. "We're still in the process of doing that. It's still finding chemistry, it's finding line combinations and it's identifying roles. It's just finding a rhythm and we've started to do that in the last couple of games.
"There is a rhythm of a game that (makes) certain guys feel comfortable. They know that it's their time to be called upon. We've just got to find that rhythm. We're very close to doing that and, hopefully, with one more game we'll be there."
All of which makes Friday's pre-season game anything but a meaningless one, even if – officially, at least – it has no bearing on the standings.
"Tomorrow's going to be a big game," said Senators forward Nick Foligno
. "We want to make sure we’re playing well. But we know that first regular-season game is going to be a big statement for us and we want to make sure we’re ready for that. We’ll be working hard the next couple of days and especially the week before that game to make sure we fine-tune everything and make sure guys are going.
"We want to make sure we start off on the right foot. Confidence helps and when you’re winning, you’re feeling good, and that’s what we want to get back in this locker room."
"We know that first regular-season game is going to be a big statement for us and we want to make sure we’re ready for that. We’ll be working hard the next couple of days and especially the week before that game to make sure we fine-tune everything and make sure guys are going. We want to make sure we start off on the right foot." - Nick Foligno
With 15 of their first 21 games scheduled for Scotiabank Place, the Senators know a strong start is paramount if they're to reclaim a playoff position in what should be a hotly contested Eastern Conference once again.
"It's an important stretch for us here," said centre Jason Spezza
. "The game's important but the week of practice coming up is going to be really important, too. Cory, I'm sure, is going to do a lot of teaching, go over the systems and make sure everybody's on the same page. Then we want to get off to a really good start."
That opener in the Big Apple can't come soon enough for some.
"I think we're all looking forward to the real thing to start and just getting to play together," said goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who's expected to play his second full game of the pre-season on Friday night. "In training camp, there are so many guys around and we're just kind of looking forward to playing with our team."Around the boards
Goaltender Mike Brodeur cleared waivers earlier today and has been assigned to the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League. That leaves Leclaire and backup Brian Elliott as the only two goaltenders remaining in camp. Eight defencemen and 16 forwards, including injured Jesse Winchester
(right knee), are also still on hand ... Defenceman Filip Kuba
sat out practice this morning with a lower-body injury. Clouston said he probably won't play Friday against the Bruins "but he'll be ready for practice by Monday."