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Senators wary of Atlanta threat

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Forward Nick Foligno skated on a line with Jason Spezza and captain Daniel Alfredsson during Senators practice today in Atlanta (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images).

(UPDATE - Saturday, March 28: Brian Elliott starts in goal and Brian Lee is back on defence. The healthy scratch will be decided after the pre-game skate. Listen to audio (mp3) from coach Cory Clouston after this morning's practice).

The Atlanta Thrashers provided an eyeful for the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.

More than enough, Senators head coach Cory Clouston said, to have his charges on full alert when they hit the ice at Philips Arena on Saturday night to face off against the Thrashers (7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200).

While Atlanta (31-38-6) stands one spot and six points behind the 12th-place Senators (32-31-10) in the Eastern Conference, the Thrashers are 7-3-0 in their last 10 outings. That includes a 5-4 shootout triumph over the New York Rangers on Thursday night, in which Atlanta wiped out a three-goal second-period deficit.

"They're a team that's playing well," Clouston said earlier today after the Senators went through a 45-minute workout at the Ice Forum practice facility in Atlanta. "(The Thrashers') record as of late is much better. They beat New York (on Thursday) night, so they're playing much better hockey. We're not exactly sure what their goaltending situation is going to be like but they're a dangerous team."

The Senators hope to rebound quickly from Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., that halted a five-game Ottawa winning streak. They're 11 points beyond the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, currently held down by the Montreal Canadiens.

"We had a good up-tempo practice today," said Clouston. "The biggest thing is, we've got to focus on positives and we've got to make sure that we're trying to correct the little things that we need to do better."

"They're a team that's playing well. (The Thrashers') record as of late is much better. They beat New York (on Thursday) night, so they're playing much better hockey ... they're a dangerous team." - Cory Clouston
Clouston might ice a slightly different alignment on his top two lines Saturday. In practice earlier today, he had Nick Foligno skating alongside Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, while Dany Heatley lined up alongside Mike Fisher and Ryan Shannon.

"That doesn't mean it's going to stay that way during a game," Clouston said when asked about the switch. "We juggle (the lines) at times during a game ... It's just trying to get a little bit more simplicity on both of those lines. I think both lines, at times, are a bit guilty of getting a little too fancy.

"We were doing that in the neutral zone (against Carolina) and hopefully right now, we've got a little bit better balance with some skill and a little bit of grit and a little bit more of a simple lineup."

Around the boards

Defenceman Brian Lee (upper body) skated with the team in practice today and Clouston said "it looks like he should be good" for Saturday's game against Atlanta ... The Senators head south to Florida after tomorrow night's game and will face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday (6 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) and Florida Panthers on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) ... Ottawa's next appearance at Scotiabank Place is April 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for the game.

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