by Todd Anderson
The Ottawa Senators face a surging St. Louis Blues team tonight. Although their chances of making the playoffs are doubtful - St. Louis is 12 points behind Calgary for eighth in the Western Conference with just 11 games remaining - the Blues have picked up at least one point in 11 of their last 14 games.
"All I know is they're really working hard, they're really working well defensively," Senators head coach Bryan Murray says of tonight's opponent. "Their goaltender (Curtis Sanford) seems to have played real, real well. The couple of games that I've seen them play, they seem to get outplayed a little bit and he makes a big stop for them."
Murray thinks the addition of a new head coach, Andy Murray, has improved the Blues' fortunes as well.
"I think since Andy has gone there he's given them more structure and certainly a lot of confidence. They're playing with no pressure. The pressure is what they put on themselves, for jobs and future. The guys on the team are showing the new coach what they can do, and I think you'll see a high-energy team play against us."
Senators goaltender Martin Gerber starts tonight and is 8-0-2 over his last 10 games.
"I think he's given us a chance to win every game he's played lately," Murray said. "Based on that, I think he deserves to play another game here on this trip."
Senators forward Oleg Saprykin draws back into the lineup tonight in place of Christoph Schubert, who will rest due to soreness. Saprykin will skate on the left side with Patrick Eaves and Dean McAmmond, and Mike Comrie will move onto a line with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza.
"I thought Mike has worked real hard, he's been a threat. I'm trying to give him more of an opportunity with skilled players," Murray said after today's morning skate.
The Senators last faced the Blues in St. Louis on Dec. 5, 2002, tying the game 2-2.