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Sens get first look at West

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
For the first time in a long time, the Ottawa Senators will get a chance to see how the other half lives.

When the Senators line up against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200), it’ll be their first matchup against a Western Conference team since the Stanley Cup final back in June.

Senators head coach John Paddock, COO Cyril Leeder and Spartacat helped launch the Tickets for Troops program at Scotiabank Place on Thursday morning.
Needless to say, familiarity is a bit of an issue in this one.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Senators centre Mike Fisher after the team’s pre-game skate Thursday morning. “We haven’t seen Nashville in a little bit, but we know they’re playing pretty well right now.”

While it’s not nearly the same Nashville team that routed them 6-0 back on Dec. 14, 2006, the Senators surely haven’t forgotten that result and are wary of what the Predators will bring into tonight’s rematch.

“It’s one of those teams that we don’t play too often, so we really don’t know what they’ve got,” said Ottawa centre Jason Spezza. “But we know they’ve got some skill. We went into Nashville last year and got killed so we’ll be ready for them, that’s for sure.”

Added head coach John Paddock: “We don’t see much of them. But as (assistant coach) Ron Low just said to me, they are the hardest forechecking team we’ve seen this year … they are going to come hard (at us).”

While the Predators sit in the basement of the Central Division, they still sport an 11-9-2 mark in what is an ultra-competitive grouping. More importantly, they’re 7-2-2 in their last 11 games. That recent run is clearly superior to the 3-4-2 record posted by the Senators in their previous nine since tearing out of the gate with a 13-1-0 record.

While the Senators turned in an improved effort in Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Islanders, it still wasn’t a win. And that’s something the Sens haven’t tasted since a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens some 10 days ago.

“If you’re off a little bit in this league, you don’t win,” Paddock said in trying to explain his team’s recent woes. “We need to be clicking on all cylinders. But nobody’s done that in the league that I’ve seen, because nobody’s undefeated. We still have the least losses in regulation in the league.

“But we need a win here to feel good about ourselves and to get rewarded for the good things we are doing.”

Spezza echoed that sentiment, saying “we still feel like we’re a first-place club. We don’t need to score seven goals to win. We don’t mind winning them 1-0 or 2-1. We’ve just got to get back to that win-first mentality and with the group we have here, we will.”

Fisher said it’s a matter of putting the importance back on doing the “little things” better.
“We’ve gotten away from that and when you’re record’s so good, that can definitely happen,” he said. “But we’ve just got to turn it around and realize that if we don’t give our best effort or outwork teams, it’s hard to win in this league. There’s so many good teams. We’ve just got to get back to the hockey we know we can play.

“I thought we played a little bit better (Wednesday) night and we had a decent effort. We can feel it coming. We’re getting back to where we want to be. It’s just a matter of time.”

Martin Gerber (13-2-1) gets the start in goal tonight.

Senators support Canadian Forces

The Senators have launched a Tickets for Troops program in support of their Canadian Forces Appreciation Night, set for Jan. 17 against the Carolina Hurricanes. The program is designed to encourage season-ticket holders and fans to donate their game tickets for that night to Canadian Forces members and their families.

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