by Todd Anderson
Ottawa Senators head coach Bryan Murray expects a gritty effort from what he calls a veteran New York Islanders team tonight. He's also aware of the hot streak that Viktor Kozlov is on since taking over the centre position on the Islanders' top line from injured captain Alexei Yashin.
"I watched the game against the Rangers (on Sunday)," Murray said. "Viktor Kozlov (who scored four goals in the 7-4 win) is dynamite. I had Viktor in Florida (when Murray was head coach and GM there). He's a good guy and a good player, and he shoots the puck a ton.
"(The Islanders) are a hard-working group. They've got some good experience. They seem to play pretty well together. I think it's a good veteran hockey team that is finding a way to play awfully well right now."
Murray hopes to celebrate his 64th birthday today with the 580th win of his career - the most among all active coaches in the NHL. It would also be Ottawa's fourth win in a row, tying the longest winning streak for the club this season. Murray was asked what has been the biggest reason for Ottawa's improved play after a slow start this season.
"I think just getting to know each other, getting to know their roles better, obviously getting some good goaltending from Ray Emery," answered Murray. "I think all that combined has given (the players) a little bit of confidence, and certainly a much better effort."
Senators forward Dany Heatley will play his 300th NHL game tonight, which includes 110 with Ottawa. Heatley's centre, Jason Spezza, is just two points shy of 200 for his career.