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Size matters against Capitals

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Go big or go home.

That pretty much summed up Ottawa Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg's outlook as he cast an eye toward tonight's matchup with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

With that thought in mind, Hartsburg is inserting defenceman Christoph Schubert back into the lineup tonight in place of Brendan Bell. The Senators coach couldn't have made his intent any clearer when explaining the rationale behind the move.

"This is a pretty good-sized team," Hartsburg said in assessing the Capitals. "We want to use (Schubert's) size tonight and his strength. He's got skill but I think being stronger... we're going to need some of that.

"Every player has to use their strengths. For Schubie, he's a good skater, he's as strong as an ox and he can shoot the puck. When he plays a hard, strong game, whether it's at forward or on the back end, he has more impact on the game. In the corners of the rink and in front of the net, Schubie has to be strong."

Schubert, who will also take over Bell's spot on the second power-play unit, welcomes the opportunity to contribute again after being a healthy scratch in recent games.

"I just want to go back in, play my game, try to get back on track and help the boys as much as I can," said the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Schubert. "I know how I have to play. They want me to be a physical presence out there but I don't want to be getting out of position. I want to finish my hits when I get the chance and get the puck up to the forwards.

"On the power play, just get the shots through and keep the game simple."

The Senators are hoping for a quick rebound from Wednesday's 2-0 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago. At 10-11-5, the Senators now sit six points outside of an Eastern Conference playoff berth. They've earned just one point at the halfway mark of a four-game week

"We're trying to get back on track and we're trying to get near a playoff spot," said Schubert. "I know (the playoffs) are still far, far away but if we keep losing, the (gap) gets wider between eighth or seventh or sixth spot."

Added centre Mike Fisher: "We have to be much better than we were (Wednesday) night if we're going to expect to win. We need to be competing right from the puck drop."

Hartsburg believes that's especially important against the Capitals, who own an impressive 11-1-1 record at the Verizon Center.

"When you're good in your own building, it's probably because you have pretty good starts," he said. "They'll be ready to play right from the start of the game."

He'd surely take more of what his own team showed back on Nov. 4, when the Senators edged the Caps 2-1 in overtime and held a wide 44-27 edge in shots on goal.

"We had lots of pressure and we were real good in the offensive zone," said Hartsburg. "We played with a good tempo and good pace to that game. It's going to be important in this building that we have that pace and tempo up pretty early in the game."

Around the boards

Alex Auld (9-6-4) makes his 20th start of the season in goal for Ottawa ... After tonight's game, the Senators return to the nation's capital, where they'll face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) ... Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for the Tampa game, as well as home matchups with the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday and the Dallas Stars on Dec. 20. They're the Senators' final three home games before the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship takes over the building.

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