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Senators hoping to enjoy Garden party

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Just down the road from Broadway, the Ottawa Senators get to try out a new act this weekend – at least something completely different for this season, that is.

When the Senators face off with the New York Rangers on Saturday night (7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200), they’ll hit the ice at Madison Square Garden, trying to rebound from a 5-3 loss at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. Thursday night’s setback at Scotiabank Place marked the first time in the current campaign that the Senators filed off the ice at the final buzzer without two points in their back pockets.

They’d roared out of the gates 5-0 after a perfect 7-0 run through the pre-season.

Senators defenceman Andrej Meszaros (right) and his mates will aim to shut down Jaromir Jagr and the Rangers one more time on Saturday night (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
Needless to say, the feeling after Thursday’s game isn’t one the Senators are anxious to repeat against the Blueshirts in the Big Apple.

“We weren’t going to win them all,” Senators centre Jason Spezza said after an optional team workout Friday morning. “We knew we were going to lose one eventually. But no, it’s not fun to lose.”

The Senators surely know the formula to get back on the winning track. Last Saturday at Scotiabank Place, they shut down the Rangers 2-0 in probably their most complete performance of the season to date. Head coach John Paddock, for one, knows more of the same will be necessary in the early season rematch at the Garden.

“(Last Saturday), we probably played the opposite of the way we played (against Carolina),” he said. “We played a pretty smart game but when you get the lead, you can do that.

“I thought we skated well and played smart. (Thursday) night I don’t think it’s that the skating wasn’t there, it’s that we didn’t have the thinking behind it. We were disciplined and ready to play against the Rangers. (Thursday) night, we were ready to play but we were a bit brain dead.”

Added winger Dany Heatley: “We’ve got to play real responsibly and not turn the puck over and give (the Rangers) odd-man rushes like we did last night. (Carolina) had guys that made us pay, and if we do that against New York, they’ve got guys who’ll make us pay, too.”

Paddock won’t be caught grumbling too much about one loss on the heels of a 5-0 start. The Senators still own the best record in the National Hockey League.

“I’d take five (wins) out of six every time,” he said. “It’s a pretty good record. I don’t have any complaints right now. We’ll just try to play consistent hockey and try to maintain a good edge.”

All of that will surely get a test in the next few weeks. After a busy stretch of seven games in 11 days to start the season, the Senators’ schedule all but grinds to a halt the rest of the month, with a mere three games in 18 days.

“Already, I’m more worried about the three games in 18 days than I’m worried about the game Saturday night, and that doesn’t mean I think we’re going to win Saturday night for absolute sure,” said Paddock. “To keep that edge over that period of time, that’s already a concern. I think we’ll be sharp Saturday night and hopefully we get two points. But those next games … that’s going to take some real preparing.”

That stretch of inactivity also adds to the urgency to finish up the current stretch with one more victory Saturday night.

“You don’t want to lose two in a row, especially going into the long gap,” said Spezza. “Any time you lose a game, you want to try to get back on it and win your next one so you don’t get into a bit of a funk.”

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