|Defenceman Anton Volchenkov returns to the lineup tonight as the Senators face off with the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Perhaps the timing is finally right for the Ottawa Senators to vanquish a rival that has been their nemesis for more than two seasons.
The red-hot Senators carry a six-game winning streak into tonight's matchup at Scotiabank Place with the New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200), who have won the last nine meetings between the teams. Ottawa's last win? Back on Oct. 27, 2007, on opening night at the Devils' current home, the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Patience has always been the biggest of virtues for the Atlantic Division-leading Devils (34-15-1) and it'll be a key for the Senators (28-21-4) if they're to finally gain the upper hand against goaltender Martin Brodeur and New Jersey in the teams' last of four meetings this season.
"They just play such a patient game," centre Jason Spezza
said after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "Our special teams have to be better – we haven’t been very good against them with our special teams. We’ve just got to try to control the puck, control the neutral zone and keep pucks away from Marty … he does such a good job of starting the breakout for them.
"They’ve posed a problem for us this year, but we hope to get over that hump with them."
Back on Nov. 7 at Scotiabank Place, the Senators took their best shot at the Devils, building a 2-0 lead in the second period. But Zach Parise, David Clarkson and Andy Greene scored power-play goals to rally New Jersey to a 3-2 win. The Senators haven't beaten the Devils on home ice since Oct. 7, 2007, something they'd naturally like to change tonight.
"They’re very patient and they can afford to be patient because they have Brodeur," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
. "We had our chance – we were up 2-0 on them here at home and blew that lead. It’s going to be a good challenge (tonight) but I think getting pucks away from him on the dump-ins – you don’t want to let him get out to get the pucks and start their attacks – is going to be a priority."
It might be suggested the Senators couldn't be better positioned to finally break through against Brodeur and the Devils. Alfredsson, Spezza and forward Milan Michalek
have all returned from the injury list and the Senators have also been getting the job done in their own end, allowing only seven goals during their current six-game winning streak.
"They’re very patient and they can afford to be patient because they have Brodeur. We had our chance – we were up 2-0 on them here at home and blew that lead. It’s going to be a good challenge (tonight) but I think getting pucks away from him on the dump-ins – you don’t want to let him get out to get the pucks and start their attacks – is going to be a priority." - Daniel Alfredsson
Goaltender Brian Elliott, who gets the start for Ottawa tonight, also seems to be in top form, coming off a 4-0-0 week in which he allowed only five goals on 115 shots. But head coach Cory Clouston points toward the most basic of qualities for his team's current success.
"I keep going back to the games even before that, when we were losing (five straight)," he said. "We still played hard, we worked hard and now, when you bring in Alfredsson, Michalek and Spezza, you’re basically inserting your whole first line (back into the lineup). So it does give us options offensively.
"Our power play has been better as of late and it’s no coincidence that when you add those type of players to your power play, it’s going to improve. I liked our work ethic before, I liked our execution … we just weren’t coming away with wins."
That type of diligence should come in extra handy tonight in a game in which goals – and scoring opportunities, for that matter – again figure to be at a premium.
"You don’t get too many (chances) but when you do, you’ve got to make sure you put them in the back of the net," said forward Nick Foligno
. "And we’ve got to make sure we play solid D, because they’ve got some guys who can score goals. We just have to be smart all around."
Around the boards
In another piece of good news on the health front, defenceman Anton Volchenkov makes his return to the lineup tonight after missing one game with an upper-body injury. That makes blueliner Alex Picard a healthy scratch, along with forward Shean Donovan ... The Senators' lines during the pre-game skate: Milan Michalek
-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson, Alex Kovalev-Peter Regin-Ryan Shannon, Nick Foligno
-Mike Fisher-Jonathan Cheechoo and Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Chris Neil ... Fewer than 2,750 tickets
remain for the matchup with the Devils, which is also a Subway Savings Game
, with all regular-priced tickets available for 20 per cent off.