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Senators remain wary of Penguins' firepower

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Even without Sidney Crosby in the Penguins lineup, Colin Greening and the Senators know they have a challenge on their hands tonight, when Pittsburgh and its potent attack makes its first visit of the season to Scotiabank Place (Photo by Francois Laplante/NHLI via Getty Images).
No Sidney Crosby? No difference for the Ottawa Senators.

Even with the game's best player back on the shelf with concussion-related issues, the Senators know the chore doesn't get any easier tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Scotiabank Place for the first time this season (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

Though they've gone 5-4-1 in their last 10 outings, the Penguins (17-10-4) remain one of the Eastern Conference's elite teams and boast a potent lineup that includes Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and James Neal, one of the National Hockey League's top goal scorers with 17.

"They're very, very deep and you can see why they're doing so well," forward Colin Greening said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "Even when Crosby wasn't in the lineup (at the start of the season), they were still first in the Eastern Conference. They have a lot of firepower ... so it's going to be a good challenge for us.

"There's always certain players you key on and tonight, we'll key on some other players. You have to be aware of them when they're on the ice. The (Penguins) have a lot of players like that, but you don't really change too much. You just have to make note of some of their high-end players and go from there."

Added defenceman Matt Carkner: "They've got a good team out there, so you don't change just because (Crosby) is out. Obviously, he does add a lot ... he's a big element to their game. But they have other guys who can step up."

Senators head coach Paul MacLean agreed a top effort will be needed tonight for the Senators (14-14-4), who continue a tough four-game home stretch against some of the East's heavyweights. Ottawa dropped a 5-2 decision to the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, and the Buffalo Sabres (Tuesday) and Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers (Thursday) await next week.

"We know we have our hands full tonight playing against a good team," said MacLean. "Even though they're missing some people, we're missing some people, but we know we have to be ready and at our best to have an opportunity to win."

One difference maker for the Senators tonight could be the team's power play, which has generated plenty of shots and scoring chances the last two games, but hasn't shown the top-end production it enjoyed at the outset of the season.

"We're getting set up the way we want and moving the puck and getting shots," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We're just not finding the net. I think it's one of those things where if we get one or two, it's going to keep coming. You've just got to believe in what you're doing and keep doing it. You can't start to alter it too much."

Around the boards

While injured veteran defencemen Filip Kuba (shoulder) and Sergei Gonchar (upper body) both skated this morning, neither is ready to rejoin the Senators lineup tonight. However, MacLean remains hopeful they might be good to go on Tuesday, when the Buffalo Sabres visit Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "I'd like to get them both back," said MacLean ... Alex Auld makes a rare goaltending start at home for the Senators tonight, while Brent Johnson gets the nod for the Penguins ... Fewer than 500 tickets remain for tonight's game, including 150 in the Coke Zero Zone for $25 ... As part of their annual holiday season food drive, the Senators are collecting non-perishable items at the entrances of Scotiabank Place tonight in support of the Ottawa Food Bank.

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