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Solid defence needed against Thrashers

by Staff Writer / Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators will be keeping a close eye on Ilya Kovalchuk, left, and Marian Hossa tomorrow. Photo: S. Cunningham/Getty Images/NHLI

by Todd Anderson

Boasting a dangerous arsenal up front, the Atlanta Thrashers bring this season's two-game winning streak over the Ottawa Senators - 5-4 on Nov. 8 and 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 1 - to Scotiabank Place tomorrow. With the likes of forwards Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk coming to town, the Senators will need a solid defensive effort to extend their current three-game winning streak.

"We know they have some goal scorers and that we haven't played that well against Atlanta as much as other teams," Senators head coach Bryan Murray said this morning after practice. "We have to play a responsible game and we can't take penalties. Obviously, they score on the power play a lot with Kovalchuk's big shot."

Once again, expect Murray to employ the defensive tandem of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov against Hossa and Kovalchuk. Phillips assessed the talent of the two players.

"They're two different types of players. Kovalchuk has a great one-timer, and when you think you have him, all of the sudden the puck is on his stick and then gone again, and often in the net. Hoss seems to be able to reach his top speed in only a couple of strides. Both of them have strength to back up their talent. Any time you play against elite guys the important thing is to try and not give them time with the puck and to be confident in your own abilities."

While the Thrashers continue to lead the Southeast Division, they've gone 3-6-1 in their last 10 games.

"They're a desperate team, and after losing some games, they're going to want to turn things around," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said.

Senators winger Dany Heatley, who started his NHL career in Atlanta, also expects a spirited effort from the Thrashers.

"It's always a tough game. They have lots of dangerous guys. I expect them to be fired up to play us. They've beaten us twice now, but we've got them two more times. We're hoping to start with two points tomorrow."

The Atlanta Thrashers are expected to have forward Denis Hamel in the lineup tomorrow. Hamel was claimed off waivers by Atlanta from the Senators on Feb. 10.

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