They’ve been streak stoppers for the Ottawa Senators already this season.
But now that they’re back on the winning track, the Eastern Conference leaders don’t intend to let the Carolina Hurricanes knock them off their successful pace one more time.
No, the Senators haven’t forgotten about the 5-3 setback the ’Canes hung on them back on Oct. 11 at Scotiabank Place, which spoiled Ottawa’s perfect 5-0-0 season start. The two teams get together again Wednesday night at RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).
“We were rolling pretty good and they gave us our first loss,” Senators centre Jason Spezza
said in recalling the teams’ earlier meeting this season. “Obviously, we didn’t have our best game against them.”
Both the Sens and Hurricanes have had their struggles in recent weeks, but remain among the top teams in the conference. Ottawa (18-7-3) leads the pack, with Carolina (16-12-3) and the New Jersey Devils (16-11-3) a mere four points back. Widening that edge is the Senators’ main motivation for Wednesday night’s contest.
“This is a team we feel is pretty good in the East this year,” said Spezza. “You have to play well against the teams that are good in your conference, because you may match up against them later on (in the playoffs).
“We definitely want to have a better outing against them and make more of a statement.”
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
predicts another high-octane matchup.
“It’s going to be fun to go in there,” he said of the Senators’ first game in five days. “We’re going to be well-rested and we should have lots of jump. It’s fun to play (the Hurricanes) because it’s up-tempo hockey.
“They play a pressure game and so do we, so it should be a fun game to play and watch.”
Added defenceman Chris Phillips
: “They’ve got a lot of great players capable of playing a great game. Now, in their building, we’re going to have to be prepared to play our best.”
While Senators head coach John Paddock did some juggling with his No. 1 power-play alignment during practice Tuesday at Scotiabank Place, he admitted he’ll likely continue to stick with Spezza, Alfredsson and Dany Heatley – for starters, at least. Paddock has made it clear increased production is needed from the specialty unit.
“You don’t have to score to be doing something,” he said after Wednesday’s pre-game skate. “You need to create and look like you’re making some plays that involve everybody.”
Goaltender Ray Emery will break out a new mask featuring legendary heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali as he makes his fourth straight start. He played a big hand in helping the Senators land five of a possible six points during a three-game southern road swing last week and appears to be rounding closer to his old form.
“I feel all right,” said Emery. “There’s room for improvement, but I’m getting more comfortable in net.”
Defenceman Wade Redden has noticed the return of some of Emery’s high-intensity play between the pipes.
“No question, he’s at his best when he’s intense and competing and giving it back a little bit, too,” said Redden. “He’s got that fire in him. He’s been real solid the last few games for us, and we’re going to need that to continue.”
The Senators are in Pittsburgh on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) to face Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, then face the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). About 200 tickets remain for that game, the Senators’ first at home in two weeks.