Maybe the rivalry has cooled a little bit in recent seasons.
But when the Ottawa Senators hit the ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200), their desire for victory won't be diminished in the least. Though it isn't exactly all about the colour of the jersey they'll see on the opposition bench.
It's still early in the season, but the Senators (7-9-4) and Maple Leafs (7-9-5) are both currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoff picture. No time like the present to change that, said Sens centre Mike Fisher.
"We both need wins, so it's an important game for us and for them, too," he said. "We feel like we've been playing a little better lately and we've got to get on a roll here soon. We've got to be prepared and ready to go tonight."
The Senators played perhaps their most complete game of the season last Saturday in smothering the New York Rangers 4-1 at Scotiabank Place. They haven't seen game action since but head coach Craig Hartsburg's message all week in practice has been the same: Stay the course and build on what was started last week.
"We tried to build on the last three games," said Hartsburg. "The way we played, the energy, the team game that we played. We want to stay on that path and continue to play that type of game and improve in certain areas."
Hartsburg believes it's the kind of game that is necessary against the hard-working Leafs.
"We both need wins, so it's an important game for us and for them, too. We feel like we've been playing a little better lately and we've got to get on a roll here soon. We've got to be prepared and ready to go tonight." - Mike Fisher
"I think people underestimate their skill level," he said. "Up front, they've got some guys who are quick and do some good things with the puck. It's going to be a game where there is going to be a lot of intensity. The rivalry's there and they play a high-tempo game."
The game also offers the ultimate study in contrasts in at least one statistical area. The Senators have scored the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference (48) so far this season; the Leafs have surrendered the most (78). While it might seem like an ideal opportunity for the Sens to build on their offensive numbers, the bottom line is all that really matters tonight.
"We just want to try to win the game," said centre Jason Spezza
. "I know there has been lots of talk about us needing more offence but if we win 1-0, then we'll be happy. We've allowed a lot less goals than we have in the past and we've built on that.
"As much as we need to score goals, we need to win games."
Said captain Daniel Alfredsson
: "We just have to keep playing a good checking game and if we get a good forecheck, then we'll get enough chances to score goals."Richardson placed on waivers
The Senators announced today that veteran defenceman Luke Richardson has been placed on waivers. Other National Hockey League teams have until noon Friday to submit a claim to pick up the 21-year veteran, who has dressed for only two games with the Senators this season.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray indicated today that if Richardson clears waivers, he will likely remain with the team in a non-playing capacity. Though he is on a two-way contract, Richardson won't be asked to report to the Senators' American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y.
"It's a decision Luke and I talked about before he signed his contract," said Murray. "He was signed as a depth player and a great guy to have around the players but also with the understanding that if he wasn't going to be used on a somewhat regular basis, we would use him in a different capacity if we could.
"We believe in Luke. He's worked really hard to be a player in this league. He's played a long time and he has great inter-personal skills. I think the players respect him a great deal for what he's done here ... He's not going to be a full-time coach or anything like that but he's going to be around the team, hopefully a fair amount." Around the boardsAlex Auld
(6-5-3) makes his seventh straight start in goal. Worth noting: the Senators are 6-0-3 when Auld allows two goals or less and 0-5-0 when the opposition scores three goals or more ... Dean McAmmond, who's been battling a severe head cold, took part in this morning's pre-game skate and Hartsburg is hopeful he'll have the key forward in the lineup tonight. "We think he'll be fine," said Hartsburg. "He feels better this morning." ... The Senators will again wear their new black third jerseys tonight ... Fewer than 500 tickets remain for the game.