The Ottawa Senators will butt heads with the Carolina Hurricanes for the last time this regular season, tonight at the Corel Centre. Ottawa is looking to even the season series at 2.
Carolina opened the season with two straight victories over the Sens by scores of 3-2 on Oct. 24 and 2-1 on Nov. 15, but the Senators rebounded with a 5-3 win on Nov. 22. The Hurricanes may have surprised some teams early on in the year but they've maintained their position as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
"They're quick and their attack is very aggressive," Senators coach Bryan Murray explained as two of Carolina's key attributes. "They look to stretch their passes on a regular basis, and if their defence is not passing, they're willing to skate with the puck. They're quick on the forecheck and they take the wall (boards) away. When you get there, their goalie has been more than adequate."
Defenceman Chris Phillips agrees Carolina can cause fits to their opponents.
"They come hard from all areas of the ice. They force us to make plays. We're prepared for that. We have to move the puck quickly and everyone has to be coming back. We have to use our speed."
Offensively this season, the Hurricanes have been led by youngster Eric Staal, who currently leads the NHL in goals with 26. A game after being asked to keep an eye on New York Ranger Jaromir Jagr, expect Zdeno Chara to get a load of minutes against Staal tonight.
"He's a talented young player and he's having a great season," said Chara, the Senators assistant captain. "We'll have to keep an eye on him."
While the Senators will be without Jason Spezza (pulled chest muscle) as well as Martin Havlat and Brandon Bochenski (both with shoulder injuries), Chris Neil will be in the lineup. The rugged forward missed Tuesday's practice with the stomach flu but was back on the ice for the pre-game skate on Wednesday morning.
"I started to feel better around 8 p.m. last night," he said afterwards.
He spoke about what he feels the key to victory is tonight.
"We have to come out real hard. They're a young team. We have to come out with enthusiasm and take the play to them. If we do that, we'll be alright."