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Sens expect 'big challenge' in Philly

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Matt Carkner and the Senators know they'll be pushed right from the opening whistle by the Flyers during tonight's game in Philadelphia (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

NHL game notes (PDF) for tonight's Ottawa-Philadelphia matchup.

In the city that immortalized Rocky, the Ottawa Senators know they'll need to be on the attack from the opening whistle.

Count on the Philadelphia Flyers being that way, too, when the teams face at the Wachovia Center tonight (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200). The Senators expect nothing less from a typically big and physical foe that will no doubt push hard to get goaltender Ray Emery a victory against his former teammates.

"They like to come out hard at the start of games and we have to be ready for that and counter that by trying to do the same thing," defenceman Chris Phillips said with an eye toward the Senators' first of four meetings with the Flyers this season.

"Take the play to them early on and try to take the crowd out of it."

Fellow blueliner Matt Carkner echoed that thought, saying "we've got to pick up on the good things we did (Tuesday) night (a 3-2 shootout win over the Edmonton Oilers) and try to continue to do those things."

"(We want to) come out and just be on the attack right away. Finish our checks, do all the simple things we can on the road, and limit our mistakes."

At 9-4-1 and riding a four-game winning streak, the Flyers stand sixth in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Senators (8-5-2). For Ottawa, it's a rare road test in a month that's dominated by home games, including five straight at Scotiabank Place after tonight's matchup.

"It's good for our guys to get out on the road," head coach Cory Clouston said after the Sens' pre-game skate today. "We know it's going to be a big challenge for us.

"They're aggressive and they drive the net probably as well as or better than anybody. They always seem to have somebody on top of the goaltender."

Most of the media focus leading into this game has centred around Emery, the goaltender who backstopped the Senators to the 2006-07 Stanley Cup final but was gone a year later when Ottawa bought out his contract. After spending a season in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, Emery signed with the Flyers and has been a standout so far, posting a 9-3-1 record with a 2.27 goals-against average.

While eight of Emery's former Ottawa teammates remain with the Senators, they insist tonight's game is just another one they want to win. Clouston said the fact Emery will be in the opposition net tonight "hasn't even been spoken about once."

"They like to come out hard at the start of games and we have to be ready for that and counter that by trying to do the same thing. Take the play to them early on and try to take the crowd out of it." - Chris Phillips
"You want to approach it like you gear up for every game," said forward Chris Neil. "It's no different than if you're playing the Leafs, Montreal or whoever. It's a big two points for us and we've got to keep making strides here and keep climbing up the ladder."

Added centre Jason Spezza, a good friend of Emery's: "Once the game starts, he's just another goalie. I wouldn't mind scoring (on him) just for a little bit of bragging rights, but it's not a big deal."

Still, those who weren't in Ottawa during the Emery era are well aware tonight's game might mean a little more than others, even if that's being played down in the dressing room.

"He was here for a while and was liked in the dressing room," said Pascal Leclaire, who'll make his fifth straight start in goal for the Senators. "He still keeps in touch with a lot of (our) players, so I think those guys are looking forward to seeing him again.

"I think it'll be a good game. People have been looking forward to it for a long time."

Around the boards

When the going gets tight, the Senators have responded well – so far this season, at least. Eleven of their 15 games have been decided by two goals or less and Ottawa is 7-2-2 in those contests ... Forwards Shean Donovan and Jesse Winchester are tonight's healthy scratches ... The team's lines during the pre-game skate: Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson, Jonathan Cheechoo-Mike Fisher-Alex Kovalev, Nick Foligno-Peter Regin-Ryan Shannon and Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Chris Neil ... The Senators are back at Scotiabank Place on Saturday to face the New York Rangers (2 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Fewer than 3,500 tickets are available for the game.

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