|Captain Daniel Alfredsson believes a strong start tonight will be imperative if the Senators are to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins in their matchup tonight at TD Garden in Boston (Getty Images).
They know exactly what it took to get to this point.
And the Senators are convinced more of the same with stand them in good stead as the push for a Stanley Cup playoff berth begins in earnest around the National Hockey League tonight. For Ottawa, it starts with a visit to TD Garden in Boston tonight (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) to take on the defending champ Bruins — never an easy chore for this team.
With a balanced scoring attack, solid goaltending and a strong work ethic, the Senators have fashioned a 27-19-6 record that has them sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, with a cushion of five points over the ninth-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoff chase. Ottawa has played more games already (52) than any team in the NHL, but after a road-heavy January, has a much more favourable schedule to finish the season, with 17 of 30 games at home.
"We'll go about our business to try to get better, push ourselves and when it's game time, we play hard for 60 or 65 minutes and then move on to the next game," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
said about his team's approach the rest of the way following the five-day NHL all-star break. "It's good to be back and I like our schedule down the stretch. It's not too compact and we've put the worst (of it) behind us, so we'll try to take advantage of that."
Added centre Jason Spezza
: "We're put ourselves in the postion where we can (compete) to make the playoffs. Now these next 30 games are going to be telling in how our season is going to be."
The Senators feel they're rejuvenated and ready to take on the task at hand.
"We played a lot of games on the road in the month of January, so I think the break definitely was great for us," forward Chris Neil
said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "You’re able to get your mind off things and now we’re back. It’s back to the grindstone, but you kind of feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
"Coming down the stretch here, we want to put together a stretch of games (in which) we’re playing great hockey and get rolling going into the playoffs."
Tonight's matchup with the Bruins ends a six-game stretch of road games and the Senators expect this one will likely be the toughest of the bunch.
"We expect them to be real good again tonight, to be physical and real hard to score against," said Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean. "We have to make sure we're ready for the test."
Scoring first — something the Senators haven't done in seven straight games — would no doubt help the cause.
"(The Bruins) don't give you much," said Alfredsson. "So if we can get the lead, that's going to be really important. That's one of the things we'd like to improve on, the start of our games. We know we can come from behind, but we'd also like to try to play with the lead a little bit more often." Around the boardsCraig Anderson
is back between the pipes for the Senators tonight, meaning he'll have started all 14 games Ottawa played in the month of January ... Tim Thomas, who's 16-3-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average and five shutouts in his past 19 appearances against Ottawa, is expected to get the start for the Bruins .. Defenceman Brian Lee (lower body) remains sidelined, but did skate with the team this morning. "Things have improved a lot for him," said MacLean. "The fact that he practised yesterday and today, and that's he out there skating now is a good sign that he'll be available possibly on the weekend." ... The Senators begin a five-game homestand — their longest of the season — on Friday against the New York Islanders (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), then the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Scotiabank Place on Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).