The climb has been too hard, the feeling too satisfying for the Ottawa Senators to turn back now.
Fresh off a blanking of the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers in New York, the Senators have arrived in Montreal to extend the high of what has been a hugely successful road trip so far. With a win against the struggling Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), they'll put a wrap on what has been an exceptional seven days of hockey.
Already this week, the Senators have used a four-goal third period to rally past the Philadelphia Flyers 6-4 at Scotiabank Place, then taken their act on the road to whip the Pittsburgh Penguins and Rangers by a combined 8-1 score. Since dropping a 5-2 decision to the Boston Bruins on Dec. 14, Ottawa is on a remarkable 10-1-2 roll that shows no signs of slowing down.
And while the Senators (24-15-6), who now sit fifth in the East standings, are a whopping 15 points ahead of Montreal (16-20-7), don't expect any letdown from the visitors on Saturday. Especially when the only loss in regulation in the last 13 games was administered by the Habs — and by a convincing 6-2 count on Dec. 27 at Scotiabank Place.
"We don't have to guard against that," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
said today at the Bell Centre when asked if there's a chance his team might look past the Canadiens, who are 3-7-0 in their last 10 outings and dealt forward Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. "We've played too well for too long to say that. I'm not saying we're not going to go on losing streaks but for us to get this far ahead ... I can't see (a letdown).
"If you don't go out and play hard, you're not going to have a chance of winning. We're earning it, we're not getting lucky all the time. We're doing a lot of good things and putting ourselves in good position, and we've had players step up each and every night ... everybody feels that every night, they can be the difference and we play that way."Turris settling in with Senators
Four weeks into his new hockey life, Kyle Turris
feels right at home with his new teammates. The 22-year-old centre, who was obtained from the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 17 in exchange for defenceman David Rundblad, played what many observers called his best game in an Ottawa uniform against the Rangers on Thursday night.
"Everything is starting to set in and I'm getting more and more comfortable," said Turris, who's totalled eight points in 12 games since joining the Senators. "I feel more and more confident every game with the guys encouraging me and the coaching staff showing confidence in me. I can't thank them enough because I'm feeling better and better."
Turris was a training camp holdout and didn't sign a new contract with the Coyotes until early December. Getting his timing back, especially with new linemates, has been his biggest chore.
"That's what's starting to come around," said Turris, who currently skates with Alfredsson and Erik Condra
. "Getting my timing down through the middle, making sure I get open and giving my wingers the puck and all that. I'm more comfortable in getting my timing down and more in game shape, I guess."Around the boards
Goaltender Craig Anderson
, who leads the NHL in games played, shots faced (1,184) and saves (1,073), will make his 41st appearance of the season Saturday night when the Senators face the Canadiens. Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean admits he isn't concerned about overworking his No. 1 stopper, who's on a 7-0-1 streak and has lowered his goals-against average to 2.99. "At this point, when he's playing well, we're going to keep playing him," said MacLean. "His history is to play 65 to 70-plus games in the league, so why would we make it different this year?" ... The Senators make a brief return home Monday to face the Winnipeg Jets at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) before embarking on a five-game road trip leading into the NHL all-star break.