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Sens aiming to rate a 10 in home finale

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Defenceman Chris Phillips and his teammates want to give their fans one last victory in their final home game of the season tonight against the New Jersey Devils (Nick Laham/NHLI via Getty Images).

It's one last show for the home folks.

One final opportunity to leave the Sens Army faithful with a positive impression – and hope – to carry with them into the summer months.

The Ottawa Senators close out the home portion of their 2008-09 schedule tonight, facing off against the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Ottawa enters the game riding a franchise-record nine-game winning streak on home ice, a number they'd like to push to an even 10 this evening.

"That's going to be our goal," captain Daniel Alfredsson said after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "We've done pretty well throughout the year at home. Our road record really did us in as far as making the playoffs, but it's nice to play well in front of the home fans.

"We would like to (finish with a home win). If we do, I think it's great. We're going to try. We're playing a team in New Jersey that's looking to turn things around. We're going to go out there and, hopefully, have a good outing for everybody."

Added defenceman Chris Phillips: "They love seeing goals scored and we hope we can do that a few times tonight. I think facing (Devils goaltender Martin) Brodeur, who's one of the best in the game ... that challenge alone can raise the level of play of some players, just to say they scored on him.

"We're going to come hard and create chances like we've been doing lately and, hopefully, we can keep getting bounces going our way."

What's been the recipe for the recent home success? Head coach Cory Clouston said it begins with one of the most basic ingredients.

"Confidence," he said. "Just a good feeling when we come into this building, that we feel we're going to win. It doesn't always work that way but we've had success. It's momentum as well. When you get some momentum going, it's a powerful thing."

"We would like to (finish with a home win). If we do, I think it's great. We're going to try. We're playing a team in New Jersey that's looking to turn things around. We're going to go out there and, hopefully, have a good outing for everybody." - Daniel Alfredsson
A victory tonight would also assure that the Senators (36-34-10) will finish with an above-.500 record, no matter what happens in their final game of the season Saturday night in Toronto against the Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). That's largely a product of the 19-10-3 record Clouston has engineered since taking over the team on Feb. 2.

Meanwhile, the Devils (49-27-4) are trying to regain some momentum of their own before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin next week. New Jersey is 3-6-1 in its past 10 games but Clouston expects a stern test tonight.

"This is a big game for them for standings and to solidify their position in the (Eastern) conference," Clouston said of the third-place Devils. "They've had a few tough games of late but they're still a very tough opponent and we expect a real good challenge. We know they're going to come hard and they're going to be real aggressive, with a very good defensive game plan.

"We're going to have to be on top of our game for 60 minutes to be effective."

Alfredsson takes pass on worlds

While some of his teammates are still mulling the possibility, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said he won't be making the trip to Switzerland for the IIHF 2009 World Hockey Championship.

"I'm not going to go, mostly because my back is not where I want it to be," said Alfredsson, who was a member of Sweden's gold-medal team at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. "I'm not going to go over there feeling so-so. If I want to go, I want to be 100% and feel like I can contribute the way I want to."

Centres Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher, forward Dany Heatley, defenceman Chris Phillips and goaltender Alex Auld are all possibilities to play for Team Canada in the tournament, which begins April 24 in Zurich and Berne. Forwards Jarkko Ruutu (Finland) and Christoph Schubert (Germany) and defenceman Anton Volchenkov (Russia) could also receive invites from their respective national teams.

Around the boards

Alex Auld (16-18-6) makes his fifth straight start in goal for the Senators tonight. He's on a personal three-game winning streak ... The National Hockey League holds its annual draft lottery on Tuesday night (8 p.m., TSN). That's when the Senators will learn where they'll pick in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in June in Montreal ... Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for tonight's game, which has been designated Fan Appreciation Night.

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