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Senators regulars eager for first pre-season action

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire answers media questions after a training camp practice earlier today at Scotiabank Place. Leclaire is slated to make his first start of the pre-season Friday night in Montreal against the Canadiens (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

One by one, the Ottawa Senators' top guns are being unleashed to fire their first shots of the pre-season.

For Mike Fisher, Alex Kovalev, Chris Phillips and goaltender Pascal Leclaire, that turn arrives Friday night, when the Senators head to Montreal to take on the Canadiens at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., RIS, Team 1200).

"I'm excited," said Fisher, the Senators' leading goal scorer (25) during the 2009-10 campaign. "Watching the guys (in Toronto) the last couple of nights, you kind of get hungry to play and it's been a long time. Montreal's always a fun building to play in, so the guys who haven't played yet are looking forward to it ... I'm ready to play games and just excited. We're all ready, I think, for the most part."

Leclaire, a playoff standout between the pipes against the Pittsburgh Penguins last spring, always eagerly looks forward to any chance to play in front of the folks back home.

"It'll be fun for me, especially going back home," said Leclaire, a native of the Montreal suburb of Repentigny, Que. "Whenever I have a chance to go back home, it's always special. It's probably going to be a sellout and it gets you into the game easier, for sure."

After watching top goaltending prospect Robin Lehner and Brian Elliott tend the Ottawa net the last two nights, Leclaire gets his first chance to show his stuff in goal. While head coach Cory Clouston hasn't officially revealed his goaltending plans for Friday night, Leclaire anticipates at least getting the start. Mike Brodeur is the second goaltender slated to dress at the Bell Centre.

"Tomorrow will be a good gauge to see where I'm at," said Leclaire. "We've had some good practices here but until you play a game, it's not the same feeling. You can ride the bike as much as you want during the summer and practise as much as you want, but nothing compares to a game.

"That's why it's important to get in a few before the season starts. It's the first game and the important thing is to get better as every game goes on."

Kovalev shared a similar sentiment, saying "the first game, you're maybe not going to be perfect, but we've got more games to play to get ready for the season."

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Senators forward Ryan Shannon, who took a nasty hit into the glass from the Leafs' Jay Rosehill during Wednesday's 4-1 loss at the Air Canada Centre, is being held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons. But on the good news front, Shannon — who's suffered concussions in each of the last two seasons — sounded and looked good today and expects a speedy return to action.

"It's just precaution," said Shannon, who didn't return to the game after the hit. "I got my bell rung and because of my history (with concussions), they just wanted to be careful ... I'm in the trainers' hands. I'm not cleared to play yet. There are a couple of other tests I think I'll have to go through, but I feel good and I should be back soon."

Added Clouston: "We're just going to err on the safe side because of Ryan's history last year. There's no rush to get him into a pre-season game. We've got six games left, so there's lots of time to get him back into it."

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The Senators roster for Friday's game in Montreal against the Canadiens:

Goaltenders: Pascal Leclaire, Mike Brodeur.

Defence: Eric Gryba, Erik Karlsson, Geoff Kinrade, Chris Phillips, Craig Schira, Patrick Wiercioch.

Forwards: Cody Bass, Eric Condra, Kaspars Daugavins, Mike Fisher, Colin Greening, Ryan Keller, Chris Kelly, Alex Kovalev, Francis Lessard, Corey Locke, Peter Regin, Jarkko Ruutu.

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