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Sens eyeing a Buffalo shuffle

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The road has often been bumpy for the Ottawa Senators this season.

But in recent times, at least, the Senators have managed to find a comfort zone at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. Ottawa is 9-2-1 in the Sabres' home building since the start of the 2006-07 season, including three playoff victories in the Eastern Conference final in 2007 and a 5-2 triumph back on Oct. 27.

They'd settle for a similar result tonight, when the teams meet in Buffalo (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200) in a matchup that is of high importance for the Senators. They trail the Sabres, who hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, by 11 points and hold two games in hand.

"We've had some success here (in Buffalo) and some good battles here and in Ottawa," Senators forward Dany Heatley said after the team's pre-game skate earlier today. "It's a building and it's a team we get up to play. Hopefully, we have another good one here tonight."

Added captain Daniel Alfredsson: "We've played pretty well here in the past and we look to continue that, no question."

Counting tonight, the Senators still have five games remaining against the Sabres this season and all of them figure to carry heavy weight in the race toward the post-season.

"It's obviously a team that we look at and say every time we play them, it's huge points," said head coach Craig Hartsburg. "We're coming off a game (Sunday's overtime loss at New Jersey) where we thought we played pretty well and now we've got to follow it up with an even better effort tonight."

Tonight's game marks the Senators' seventh stop on a road swing that has produced three points and a 1-4-1 record to date. They'd like to bank four more points before it's done, which would go a long way toward elevating Ottawa's playoff hopes.

"The best way to make up ground is to beat the teams you're trying to catch," said centre Jason Spezza. "So they're important (points)."

Elliott earns AHL all-star start

Binghamton Senators goaltender Brian Elliott has been named the Canadian team starter for the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic, set for Jan. 26 in Worcester, Mass. Elliott is having a standout season for the B-Sens, with a league-leading 18 wins, 2.31 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and two shutouts. The Senators' ninth-round selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft was recently named the AHL's goaltender of the month for December.

Around the boards

Several world junior alumni in the Senators dressing room watched with great interest Monday night as Team Canada dumped Sweden 5-1 at Scotiabank Place for its fifth straight gold medal in the tournament. "It was great to see," said Heatley. "Five in a row is something real special and it just shows how great the young talent is in our country." ... Defencemen Anton Volchenkov (upper body) and Filip Kuba (groin) are both out tonight … Alex Auld (9-10-5) makes his second straight start in goal ... Ottawa wraps up its road trip on Thursday in Boston against the Bruins (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) before returning home to face the New York Rangers on Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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