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Sens seek an early jump

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
A better start, a better finish... sounds like a winning formula for the Ottawa Senators.

Especially with the Atlanta Thrashers, tonight's foe at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200), coming off a draining 5-4 loss to the Canadiens in Montreal less than 24 hours ago. No time like the present, then, for the Senators to seize the early momentum as they try to rebound from Saturday's 4-2 road setback at the hands of the New York Islanders.

"They played (Tuesday) night, so it's important for us to come out strong," captain Daniel Alfredsson said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "Don't give them the lead to work on or sit back on. Just force them to play hard for 60 minutes."

Added centre Jason Spezza: "We've only had two games this week, we had a couple of good practices and they played last night, so you want to take advantage of that early. That's going to be our mindset at the start of the game, at least."

The Thrashers did provide one eye-opener for head coach Craig Hartsburg and his staff. Down 3-0 and seemingly out of it in the third period, Atlanta offered a reminder of its explosive capabilities by notching three rapid-fire goals to tie it up before the Canadiens finally prevailed.

"They can score some goals pretty quick and they're a team that probably has some frustration in them, just like we do, so they'll be a hungry group," said Hartsburg. "We have to make sure we're the team trying to apply pressure right away.

"We want our team not to feel the pressure. We want our team to apply pressure. Let's come out and try to put pressure on Atlanta."

"We want our team not to feel the pressure. We want our team to apply pressure." - Craig Hartsburg
The Senators will welcome forward Ryan Shannon back to the lineup tonight, three weeks after he suffered a concussion against the Islanders. Shannon had been called up from the Sens' American Hockey League in Binghamton, N.Y., for that Nov. 13 game but didn't make it to the final buzzer. He's been in a holding pattern ever since, waiting for clearance from doctors to return to game action.

"I’m thrilled to be back," he said. "It’s been a long three weeks with ups and downs. I’m pumped, I’m really excited to be back and playing in an energy role tonight.

"I just want to keep my feet moving, (play with) high energy and get back into the game."

Defenceman Alex Picard (wrist) won't return against the Thrashers, meaning Christoph Schubert draws in on the Senators blue line.

McAmmond back on the ice

Veteran centre Dean McAmmond, who's been battling a throat infection for more than a week, took part in the pre-game skate but isn't ready to return to action just yet. There is a chance he might be back on Saturday, when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Scotiabank Place (2 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

"He's getting better now," said Hartsburg. "He started riding the bike lightly the past couple of days and today is the first day that he's on the ice. It's just (a matter of) how quick he can get his strength back. He's lost some weight and he feels weak but he's on the rebound."

Around the boards

Alex Auld (7-6-3) makes his ninth straight start in goal tonight ... At 8-10-4, the Senators currently stand 13th in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Atlanta (8-13-3) but only six back of eighth-place Carolina, which has played three more games ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for tonight's game, while 800 are left for Saturday and 2,500 for Monday's visit by the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

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