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Sens eager for Red Wings test

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Out of the frying pan, into the fire ... or so it might seem.

Fresh off a weekend in Stockholm spent duelling with the current Eastern Conference champions, the Ottawa Senators know they need to take it up another notch yet on Saturday night when the Detroit Red Wings arrive at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

Dean McAmmond (left) and Christoph Schubert watch the action during Senators practice Thursday morning at Scotiabank Place.
The reigning holders of Lord Stanley's famed chalice are everybody's choice to do it one more time next June, and they've added former Senators sniper Marian Hossa to an already formidable roster. Nobody has to tell anyone in the Ottawa dressing room about the test that awaits this group in two days' time.

"It’s a great opportunity for us," Senators defenceman Jason Smith said after the team's on-ice session today at Scotiabank Place. "They’re a team that has a solid roster and we’re going to have to be at our best to get the results we want. We’re going to have to do the things that we did in the two games over in Sweden: Make sure we’re working from start to finish and executing a solid, all-around game plan."

It might be said new Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg is trying to build the same type of team in Ottawa. Clearly, he's an admirer of the Wings' dogged determination on the ice.

"The first thing you always want to talk about is their skill but when you watch them play, (you see) they work extremely hard, they play great defensive hockey and don’t turn many pucks over," said Hartsburg. "It’s not just about a skill game. They play a good, hard-working team game. I think that’s the part that probably gets lost when people talk about Detroit. It’s a team that has a work ethic you have to match."

Centre Jason Spezza sees it as an early chance for the Senators to assess where they stand in the grand scheme of things.

"They’re kind of the measuring stick for everybody else in the league," he said of the Red Wings. "They’re the defending champions, they’re the Cup favourites and when they come to town, they’re probably going to see everybody’s best game. We hope to give them a good game and measure ourselves up to where we think we’re at and see where we have to get to (to challenge the Wings for the Stanley Cup)."

The appearance of the Red Wings at Scotiabank Place is merely the latest step in what Spezza rates as a daunting early season schedule for the Senators.

"When the schedule came out, we looked at our schedule and saw we had the (two) Stanley Cup finalists and Phoenix (on Oct. 17), which made a bunch of moves, and Anaheim (on Oct. 24)," he said. "It (wasn't) going to be an easy start for us. It’s a good test for us with a new coach and a new bunch of guys. We’re definitely not going to get any free points early in the year. It’s a challenge to have these teams coming in and we’re looking forward to it."

Around the boards

Centre Mike Fisher (groin) skated with the team this morning but wasn't ready yet to declare himself ready to face off against the Red Wings. "I’m still getting a bit of discomfort here and there, but I’m trying to work through it," he said. "For the most part, I’m able to go fairly hard and it’s feeling okay. I’ll see tomorrow. Hopefully, it’s a little better than it feels today and we’ll go from there. I’m not really sure about Saturday." ... Fewer than 500 tickets remain for Saturday's game. Only 750 are available for the Coyotes' visit next Friday. 

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