|Erik Karlsson and the Senators know the Stanley Cup champion Bruins are better than their current record, and they're expecting a stern test at TD Garden tonight. Ottawa is hoping to extend its six-game winning streak with a road triumph in this one (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
BOSTON — A mere glance at the standings alone offers up a major eye opener for anyone who's paying attention.
But the Ottawa Senators aren't among them.
"We know that the record doesn’t always speak the truth," Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson said when asked about the 3-7-0 record the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins will carry into their matchup tonight at TD Garden (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200). "You can still be a good team and lose — that’s the way it is in this league."
"Basically, they have almost the same team as they had last year and they’re going to come out hard ... it’s going to be a tough game for us. We just have to be ready and don’t look at the (standings)."
So it is that tonight's visitors remain extremely wary of a Boston team that currently resides in the Eastern Conference basement, almost the polar opposite of the Senators (7-5-0), who have ridden a six-game winning streak to fourth spot in the conference. None of that figures to matter tonight, with the Bruins likely to be in an ornery mood in front of the home folks.
"It’s a benchmark game, for sure," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "We think they’re one of the best teams in the East and I don’t care what the standings say. They’re Stanley Cup champions and they’ve got some great players — three deep lines, six real good defencemen and one of the best goalies in the league.
"This isn’t a team we take lightly and it’s a hard arena to play in. For us, we just have to make sure we’re at the top of our game tonight or they can make it a long night for you."
Added forward Jesse Winchester: "Everybody knows how good they can be and how good they are. We have to be at our best tonight and it’s going to be a battle out there."
Let's just say head coach Paul MacLean feels no need to remind his troops what they're up against tonight. He's ready for a stern test for his team, which has steeled its confidence by reeling off five straight one-goal victories — and has rallied from behind in six of its seven wins to date.
"We shouldn’t have to remind them of that because we are playing the Stanley Cup champs," MacLean said following the Senators' pre-game skate at TD Garden. "Just walking into the building, you look at things like the press notes and banners … it all says Stanley Cup champions and it’s very well deserved.
"No matter what their record says, they’re still the Stanley Cup champions. We know we’re going to get a good game and we know we have to be at our best to have an opportunity to win the game tonight."
While the Senators are savouring their current run of success, they also know today marks the first day of just the second month of the season. In other words, the grind is just beginning.
"I don’t think we feel like we’ve accomplished much yet," said Spezza. "There’s still a long way to go and we’re just trying to get better and continuing to work. It’s fun winning. You have to find ways to keep winning and it’s hard to do in this league."
Around the boards
With captain Daniel Alfredsson (concussion) out indefinitely and Kaspars Daugavins back in Binghamton having dental surgery, Zenon Konopka draws back into the lineup up front tonight. Brian Lee remains the healthy scratch on defence — not that it's a decision MacLean hasn't wrestled with lately." I’ve thought about it the last three games, playing Brian Lee," admitted MacLean. "Somehow, it’s easier to change the fourth line ... but the defensive pairs have been playing so well that at this time, we just feel like we can’t do it. Believe me, I ask the question every day: Can we put Brian Lee in the lineup today? But the D pairs are playing very well and that’s the reason (for not changing)" ... Defenceman Matt Carkner (knee) skating on his own yesterday, but MacLean suggested his return isn't imminent. "I don’t see it happening in the next week or 10 days, that he would practice with the team and play," he said ... The Senators return to Scotiabank Place for back-to-back games against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) and Buffalo Sabres on Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).