It’s a road destination with special meaning for the Ottawa Senators.
When the Senators take the ice at HSBC Arena for tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200), it’ll mark the teams’ first meeting in that building since May 19. That’s the day when Daniel Alfredsson
’s overtime goal clinched the Eastern Conference crown for the Senators and propelled them into the Stanley Cup final for the first time in modern franchise history.
“There’s lots of emotions for everybody coming back here,” head coach John Paddock said after Wednesday’s 30-minute pre-game skate. “I think it should be good (for us) that way.”
Perhaps it’s an appropriate spot, too, for goaltender Ray Emery to make his fourth start of the season. Emery, who backstopped the Senators all the way through their magical playoff run last spring, hasn’t played since Nov. 8 and has watched Martin Gerber make four straight starts since.
“I expect him to play well,” Paddock said of Emery. “It’s a good place for him to play after being out for (nearly two weeks).”
The Senators won’t have veteran centre Randy Robitaille tonight. The Ottawa native took a shot off his left hand during Monday’s 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens and left that game early. He skated with the team Wednesday morning, but it was determined his hand was too sore for him to suit up against the Sabres.
Forward Brian McGrattan will be inserted into the lineup in Robitaille’s absence.
The Sabres, meanwhile, get centre Tim Connolly back off the injury list. But Paddock doesn’t expect the Senators will see a different approach from the Sabres.
“They’ll play the same game they played last time,” he said in reference to the Senators’ 3-2 win over the Sabres at Scotiabank Place last Thursday. “It’s the same game the Buffalo Sabres always play – high tempo, lots of skating.
“I don’t know where they’re going to put (Connolly), but they’ve got lots of options, I know that.”
After tonight’s matchup, which ends a three-game road trip, the Senators return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sens TV, Team 1200). Paddock has tabbed Gerber as his starting goaltender for that one.
Fewer than 200 tickets remain for Thursday’s game and Saturday’s visit by the Philadelphia Flyers to Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).