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Sens aiming to spoil Habs' playoff party

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Defenceman Chris Campoli believes the Senators should have no trouble getting inspired by the playoff atmosphere expected in Montreal tonight (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images).

No doubt they'll be in a playoff kind of mood in Montreal tonight.

But while this year's post-season party won't involve the Ottawa Senators, that doesn't mean they can't feed off that kind of atmosphere at the Bell Centre this evening (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). The Canadiens aren't in yet but can secure a Stanley Cup playoff ticket for themselves with a pair of victories.

"It's pretty easy to get up for a game like this," said Senators defenceman Chris Campoli after the team's pre-game skate earlier today. "It should be exciting out there tonight ... the rivalry is intense. I'd expect nothing less (than a strong effort) from the guys in this room."

The Senators, who are 1-2-2 against the Habs so far this season, would also like to score their first Bell Centre win of 2008-09. The Canadiens won the two previous matchups this season in Montreal on Nov. 11 (4-0) and Feb. 21 (5-3).

"We haven't won here this year, so it would be a good way to finish off our (season series) against them," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

A strong final week of the season is a goal, too, for a team that is 17-10-3 since Cory Clouston took over as head coach. After tonight, the Senators are home to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday and New Jersey Devils on Thursday before wrapping up their season Saturday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.

"We're a confident group," said Campoli, who was acquired in February in a trade with the New York Islanders. "I haven't been here all year but I'm a believer that we have a good hockey team in here. We've just got to finish strong and do what we've been doing lately.

"The last two months we've probably been one of the better teams in the league. We've just got to keep doing what Cory has been preaching and continue to have success."

Added Alfredsson: "We want to try to have every game at a high level of intensity. We're playing some teams that are fighting for position or even their playoff lives. It should be a good (way to) finish for us."

"It's pretty easy to get up for a game like this. It should be exciting out there tonight ... the rivalry is intense. I'd expect nothing less (than a strong effort) from the guys in this room." - Chris Campoli
The Canadiens, meanwhile, might be without injured defencemen Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider tonight. But Clouston said that shouldn't affect his team's mindset.

"That doesn't change change our game plan, it really doesn't," he said. "We're still trying to worry about ourselves more than the opposition. It affects a little bit of their specialty teams (play) but that's more for them to adjust to, not necessarily us."

Alex Auld (14-18-6) makes his third straight start in goal tonight. No other lineup changes are planned, meaning Shean Donovan will again be the healthy scratch.

Leclaire makes first road trip

Pascal Leclaire isn't anywhere near ready to suit up for a game just yet. But for the first time since undergoing ankle surgery in January, the Senators goaltender skated with his teammates in full equipment today.

"Everything's been great," Leclaire said of his rehabilitation process. "I'm right on pace. That's what the surgeon said, that by mid-April, you should be pretty close to normal and if I'm not right now, it's pretty close to it.

"Right now, it's a little weaker and I need more strengthening around it. But that's normal. I didn't do anything for three months. It seems healed and there's barely any swelling. It reacts well during workouts, so that's good."

Leclaire is also happy to finally get the chance to spend some quality time with his teammates. He joined some of them for dinner on Sunday night.

"It's just fun to be part of the group and I'm looking forward to it," he said. "Hopefully, I can sneak in a drill or two and maybe take some shots. We'll see."

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