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Sens stick with a winning hand

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
After a standout performance Wednesday night in Buffalo, Brian Elliott returns to the Sens net for their matchup tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images).

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

With that old saying squarely in mind, Ottawa Senators head coach Cory Clouston won't tinker with a current winning hand when his team faces off against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the Wachovia Center (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). It's the second stop of a five-game road trip that began with an impressive 3-1 conquest of the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.

So that means a sixth straight start in goal for rookie Brian Elliott (6-3-2), a standout against the Sabres in turning aside 31 shots. Clouston, who plans to use Alex Auld at some point during the current road swing, doesn't figure the back-to-back action will faze the 23-year-old Elliott.

"It's no different than the defensive group," he said earlier this afternoon. "They're playing well right now. Why break things up? (Elliott) is confident and he's getting better. He and our defence have a good rapport as far as handling the puck and what they should be doing and where they should be going.

"Brian has played in the American league. There have been times when he's played five games in seven nights by himself. He's very comfortable and familiar with getting a pretty heavy workload."

Elliott's steady play was especially crucial on a night when the Sabres had 12 power-play opportunities. But the Senators penalty-killing unit was outstanding, killing off all but one of them, including a six-minute Buffalo advantage late in the second period when it was still 2-0.

"Those are the cards we were dealt but we played with them, we won the game and that's the most important thing," said Clouston. "Our bench responded exactly the way we wanted them to. Every time we took a penalty, our guys said 'don't worry boys, we'll kill this off' ... I think that's the right attitude.

"The guys showed a lot of character. Did we agree with (the calls)? A lot of them, no. But instead of pouting, we sucked it up and went out and killed them off and created a lot of momentum from our penalty kill."

While the Sabres were missing injured top gun Thomas Vanek, the Senators don't figure to get the same kind of break in Philadelphia tonight. The Flyers have won two straight and get forwards Mike Richards and Scottie Upshall back after both missed three games while battling a flu bug.

"Brian has played in the American league. There have been times when he's played five games in seven nights by himself. He's very comfortable and familiar with getting a pretty heavy workload." - Cory Clouston
Clouston feels a strong start will be necessary on the road against the fourth-place team in the Eastern Conference (28-15-9). The Senators, who are aiming to win their third straight for the first time this season, stand 13th in the East (19-25-8), 14 points shy of a playoff position.

"We've got to come out with a good start, take away some of their momentum and keep things simple," he said. "It's a fine line between taking away (his players') creativity and just keeping it simple and getting pucks in deep. If you can really balance that out, then you're dealing from strength. You're not scrambling all the time.

"So we just want to make sure we come out with a solid, simple game plan to get the puck out of our zone to break up their momentum. You create momentum by getting pucks in deep on the forecheck and trying to take the crowd out of it a little bit as well off the start."

Around the boards

Defenceman Alex Picard and forward Christoph Schubert are healthy scratches for the second straight night ... After tonight's game, the Senators head to St. Paul, Minn., to take on the Wild on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center (8 p.m., no TV, Team 1200). It'll mark the 900th career National Hockey League game for Ottawa forward Shean Donovan ... Defenceman Jason Smith is slated to play his 1,000th NHL game next Tuesday in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.

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