|Matt Carkner and the Senators aim to get back on the winning track when they face the Calgary Flames tonight at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
By night's end, they could make a mighty leap into top spot in the Northeast Division.
But the Ottawa Senators are thinking about a much bigger picture as they enter tonight's matchup with the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Even if they know full well a win tonight, combined with a Buffalo Sabres loss at home to the Boston Bruins, would elevate them into the Northeast lead.
"Those are things you do look at," defenceman Matt Carkner
said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "You don’t dwell on the games to come — we have a job to do tonight — but it’s a good opportunity to move up in the standings.
"We’ve just got to focus on playing our best and you can’t really worry about ‘what if’ and all that stuff. You’ve just got to worry about one thing at a time and come out, play our game and get the most points we can."
Indeed, with only four games remaining before the 15-day Olympic break, the opportunity is there for the Senators (33-22-4) to further solidify the playoff position they now hold. Topping the Northeast would ensure a top-three playoff seeding, but first things first. A big week before the Olympics can make life a lot easier during the final stretch drive toward the playoffs.
"You’ve just got to keep working, no matter what happens," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
. "We know this week is the last week before the break. It’s four games for us and if we can have a good showing this week, we’ll put ourselves in great position. So we’re going to do everything we can to be ready for every game, starting tonight with a tough opponent."
The Flames (29-21-9), meanwhile, are clinging to the seventh playoff spot in the Western Conference. They've had a little more jump in their step since the trades last week with the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers that brought six new bodies (forwards Ales Kotalik, Christopher Higgins, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers and Niklas Hagman, and defenceman Ian White) into the Calgary dressing room.
"You don’t dwell on the games to come — we have a job to do tonight — but it’s a good opportunity to move up in the standings. We’ve just got to focus on playing our best and you can’t really worry about ‘what if’ and all that stuff. You’ve just got to worry about one thing at a time and come out , play our game and get the most points we can." - Matt Carkner
"We watched parts of (Calgary's) last three games and we felt they played very well," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston. "I think they only gave up 13 shots the other night. Any time you’re playing that well defensively, you give yourself a chance to win. They’re very solid on the back end, they’ve got a lot of grit up front and world-class goaltending (from Miikka Kiprusoff).
"Any time you can combine that with one of the best leaders in the game (captain Jarome Iginla), you’re going to be a good team. We know we’re in for a tough challenge, but we’re ready for it."
With that thought in mind, the Senators know they'll need to bring the kind of game that produced a team-record 11-game winning streak, but went missing in Saturday night's 5-0 road loss to the Leafs.
"We have to be prepared, especially coming off a loss," said goaltender Brian Elliott, who makes his 11th straight start tonight. "We've just got to get back to the things we do well and if we do that, we'll give ourselves a good chance."
Added centre Mike Fisher: "We’ve had a good run. We know we’re a good team if we’re sticking to our game and not getting outworked and playing hard. That’s what we’ve got to do tonight. This team is really going to make us work and challenge us."Around the boards
The Flames, who own a 15-8-6 road record, have won five straight against the Senators going back to 2004. Meanwhile, Ottawa is currently riding a five-game winning streak at Scotiabank Place ... With regular public address announcer Stuntman Stu away at the Vancouver Olympics — he's performing the the same duties at the women's hockey venue — Ottawa native and Xm Radio guy Mike Ross takes over those duties at Scotiabank Place tonight and Thursday, when the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals visit Ottawa (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) ... Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for tonight's game ... The Senators' final two games before the Olympics are road affairs — Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings and Sunday versus the New York Islanders.