The Ottawa Senators had one mission in mind when they arrived in Pittsburgh earlier this week.
They’ve still got one more chance to declare that mission accomplished – tonight at Mellon Arena, when the two teams will square off in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).
The Penguins won the series opener 4-0 in convincing fashion Wednesday night, putting the pressure on the Senators to avoid digging themselves a 2-0 hole.
“It’s an important game,” centre Jason Spezza
said after the team’s game-day practice at the Igloo. “We don’t want to get down two games. We came here wanting to get the split and we’ve got a good opportunity tonight to do that.”
While Spezza admitted “we’re not going to win the game in the first period or first five minutes,” the Senators clearly want to avoid the start they had in Game 1. Gary Roberts opened the scoring for the Penguins just 1:08 into that contest and it was 2-0 before the 13-minute mark.
“We’ve got to get off to a better start,” said Spezza. “It’s a lot easier to play with the lead. It’s probably better suited to our game with the lineup we have right now, to try to get the first goal and play a little more defensive style of game and limit their chances instead of having to play catchup all the time.”
Head coach/general manager Bryan Murray, in an attempt to generate more offence, has juggled the line combinations for Game 2. He’s moved hard-nosed forward Martin Lapointe to his top line, alongside Spezza and Dany Heatley. Rookie Nick Foligno
will line up with Cory Stillman and Antoine Vermette on the second unit.
“I’m excited,” Foligno said about the opportunity to play a more prominent role. “It’s a great opportunity for me and hopefully, I can answer the bell and help out and fill the void for guys that are missing. Just be a piece of the puzzle we need now and (help) get some scoring.”
While some might suggest tonight’s game is almost must-win for the Senators if they’re to have any chance to win the series, Murray won’t go quite that far.
“We want to win the game tonight. We want to play much better than we did the other night,” he said. “I’ve been in series when I’ve been down 3-0 and lost 7-2 in a couple of games and we came back to win the series. Maybe that doesn’t happen very often but there’s still that opportunity there.
“So I’m not giving up, no matter what happens (tonight).” Volchenkov looks good to go
Defenceman Anton Volchenkov, who suffered a 15-stitch gash on his forehead when hit by an Evgeni Malkin slap shot in Game 1, has been fitted with a helmet with a full cage to protect the injury. Murray expects his shot-blocking blueliner to suit up tonight. “He will (make the decision),” said Murray. “Just after the (pre-game warmup, he’ll see) how he feels, how the helmet is and all the rest. I think the cut is fine. If it feels okay, he’ll play. He said it’s hockey. Sometimes you have to play hurt. That’s his attitude.” Injury update
While there has been media speculation that some of the Senators’ injured forwards – captain Daniel Alfredsson
, Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly – could make a return before the end of this series, Murray all but ruled that out today. “I hope in the next couple of days that Chris might be able to skate,” he said. “But he’s still got a limp, he’s still tender. I can’t imagine, if we don’t have another four or five days here, that there’s any likelihood he’ll be able to play. Fish is long term. Alfie, I would suggest, probably the same thing, not real close.”