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Sens aiming to change Hab-its

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
They're all big games for the Ottawa Senators these days.

Such is life when you're trying to escape the clutches of a five-game winless streak. They're in serious need of a victory right now and if it happens to come against the Montreal Canadiens – one of Ottawa's biggest rivals – tonight at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200), then so be it.

"Any game is huge for us right now," Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg said when asked if there's any extra significance to tonight's game, given the opposition. "We've got to play here tonight against what we feel is one of the top teams (in the National Hockey League). They may not be playing their best right now (but) we lost to them the first game in their building (4-0 on Nov. 11) and now we're in our building.

"We've got to set the tone right from the start."

Added centre Jason Spezza: "They've scored first, I think, the last couple of times we've played them. It always makes it tougher to play from behind, and they were playing real well (in Montreal) and we're weren't. Hopefully, tonight will be a different case.

"It's a pretty important game for both teams. Both teams aren't playing well coming in (Montreal has lost three of its last four) and these games always have a little extra (to them)."

The Senators will have to do it with a lineup depleted by the loss centre Mike Fisher and forward Chris Neil to knee injuries. It means centre Cody Bass will be the latest Binghamton Senators callup to get a chance to contribute, joining Ilya Zubov and Brendan Bell.

Bass is likely to play on a fourth line tonight with Nick Foligno and Zubov.

"He's a character player," Hartsburg said when asked what he hopes Bass can bring to the mix tonight. "His toughness, his grit, his intensity... those are intangible things that we were looking at. Without Neil and Fisher in our lineup, who are two of our most physical forwards, he can give some of that for us."

When the Senators set their season-opening lineup after returning from Sweden in October, they made Bass the final cut. Needless to say, he couldn't stop smiling after getting the call Wednesday to return to Ottawa.

"It's such a good feeling," said the 21-year-old centre. "There's nothing better than playing in the NHL. Especially as a young guy... it's another opportunity for me to come here and prove myself."

"It's such a good feeling. There's nothing better than playing in the NHL. Especially as a young guy... it's another opportunity for me to come here and prove myself." - Cody Bass
After spending 25 games with the Senators last season, including all four playoff contests against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bass came to training camp with high hopes of starting the season in Ottawa. But while he admitted disappointment at his demotion, Bass didn't take anything for granted coming into camp.

"It wasn't a shock (not making the team)," he said. "I'm a young kid, so I knew I had to fight for my spot. There are a lot of good players here. When I got sent down, it wasn't a shock to me but the goal is to play in the NHL and this is where I want to be.

"I know my role. I know what I have to do (on this callup). Hopefully, I can create some energy for this team and play smart defensively, and try to create some chances and see where it takes me."

Around the boards

Alex Auld (5-5-2) makes his fifth-straight start in goal tonight for the Senators ... Defencemen Christoph Schubert and Luke Richardson are the scratches ... The all-time series between the teams is currently deadlocked at 41-41-5-2 ... Fewer than 50 tickets remain for tonight's game, while 900 are left for Saturday's matchup with Wade Redden and the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place (3 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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