|Ottawa Senators goaltender Ray Emery, right, chats with forward Denis Hamel during practice today. Emery starts tonight and is 2-0-0 in his career against the Islanders.|
by Todd Anderson
With 19 of their next 27 games scheduled for Scotiabank Place, the Ottawa Senators look to take advantage of the comforts of home and climb back up the Northeast Division standings. After a short break during the holidays, the club wants to start a winning streak tonight when it hosts the New York Islanders.
"When you're trying to establish (a winning streak), the best place to do it is in your own building," says Senators head coach Bryan Murray. "We have to play very disciplined and structured. If we do that, good things will happen."
Captain Daniel Alfredsson says the main focus of the club should be enhancing its defensive play.
"We know we have to play well defensively if we want a chance to win. That's where we're looking to improve as this home stand goes on. It's also important for us to not look too far ahead. We have to focus on it game by game."
Adds alternate captain Wade Redden, "It's good that we have a favourable schedule and will be home here for (the majority) of the next month. Regardless of our record, we feel comfortable here and we want to get on a roll."
Centre Mike Fisher maintains that a high-effort level is required from every player in every game. Having the support from the Scotiabank Place crowd will certainly help motivate the players.
"We've got to start playing well at home. That's the bottom line," Fisher says. "We've got to put a streak together here."
With leading scorer Jason Spezza out of the lineup for an undetermined period of time with a knee injury, other Senators players will be called upon to pick up some of the slack.
In the Senators' last game, a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, Fisher centred a line with Alfredsson and Dany Heatley. That combination accumulated six points. Alfredsson was impressed with the line's output.
"We were able to get lots of pressure and keep the puck in their end," Alfredsson says. "Hopefully that continues."
Keep an eye on Heatley
Heatley will be a player to watch tonight. In 13 career games against the Islanders, he has 10 goals and 15 points. In the first meeting between the clubs this season, the winger scored twice in a 4-2 win. Another key stat: Heatley has registered four of the game-winning goals during Ottawa's six victories at Scotiabank Place this season.