A veritable raft of numbers sit out there, ready and available to set the trap.
The St. Louis Blues stand 14th in the National Hockey League’s Western Conference standings, their playoff hopes all but officially extinguished for another year. They’re 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, 1-7-2 in their previous 10 on the road.
But the Ottawa Senators, with nothing but Northeast Division games awaiting them after Thursday night’s matchup with the Blues at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200), remain very much wary about what awaits them this evening.
Let’s just say the Blues’ 4-3 victory in Montreal against the Canadiens two nights ago made everyone in the Senators dressing room sit up and take notice.
“They’ve got real good speed in (Paul) Kariya and (Andy) McDonald. (Brad) Boyes has 38 goals,” Senators head coach/general manager Bryan Murray said after this morning’s pre-game skate at Scotiabank Place.
“We saw in Montreal they were creative enough to get goals. They’re big, they bump into you and you have to compete against them. It’s one of those things where every game is a fine line. You win by one and you lose by one.”
Clearly, the message here is a simple one, especially in the wake of the Senators’ 5-1 loss to the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday, which snapped a three-game Ottawa winning streak.
“With (nine) games left, you have to be prepared to play,” said Murray. “It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, you’ve got to play your game and, we hope, play to the ability level of each individual on the team.”
Added defenceman Wade Redden: “We’ve got to come to the rink ready to play. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against. We’ve got to have the same urgency and intensity tonight.”
That being said, tonight represents a big opportunity to collect two points and move within one of the Northeast-leading Canadiens.
“With all the divisional games coming up, we want to make sure we win the ones that are non-divisional so we can at least get the points,” said centre Jason Spezza
It all starts, veteran forward Cory Stillman pointed out, right in the Ottawa dressing room.
“I don’t think we’re looking at (the Blues) but more at ourselves, that’s for sure,” he said. “They won a big game the other night against Montreal and that shows you what they can do. They have a highly-skilled team.
“But we’ve got to go out and focus on ourselves and worry about our own standing.”Foligno assigned to B-Sens
With the Senators almost at full health – only Chris Neil
(knee) among the regulars remains out, and his return is imminent – rookie forward Nick Foligno
was demoted to the Binghamton Senators this morning.
“Nick needs to get some games,” said Murray (mp3.file
). “He’s on the verge of being a good player. He’s a bubble player right now in that his footspeed requires upgrading.”
Murray indicated Foligno will be recalled if the B-Sens don’t make the American Hockey League playoffs and get the chance to spend the rest of the season around the big club.
“I think he’ll be a top-three line player in the future, and the future could be as early as next year,” he said.
Around the boards
Martin Gerber (27-14-3) makes his ninth straight start in goal tonight … The teams last met one year ago today, with the Senators posting a 4-2 victory at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Gerber backstopped Ottawa to that win … The Blues’ previous appearance at Scotiabank Place came 1,499 days ago (Feb. 10, 2004) – the longest absence for any NHL team here … Fewer than 300 tickets remain for tonight’s game.