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Tougher test will come as Crosby returns to lineup

by Staff Writer / Ottawa Senators
Rookie goaltender Ray Emery will be returning in goal tonight for Ottawa. Photo: OSHC

by Todd Anderson

The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins will meet for the second time in five days tonight. Coming off a 7-2 win in Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Senators are looking for another two points against the Penguins as they attempt to distance themselves from a streak, which has seen them win just one of their last four games.

While the 7-2 score on Thursday may not be a clear indication of the effort put forth by the Penguins, especially early on, their offence will receive a boost tonight. Young phenom Sidney Crosby, who missed the last game because of the flu, is expected to play.

"He sees the ice well and has a powerful lower body," said Senators coach Brian Murray of Crosby, a former star with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Rimouski Océanic. "When you see the ice like that, and have the hands and speed, you have a chance in this league."

As usual, the pairing of Chris Phillips and Zdeno Chara will be given the assignment of facing the opposition's best forward unit.

Chara spoke about what he expects from Crosby tonight.

"He's a very skilled player, and you have to be aware when he's on the ice. He creates a lot of chances."

During last Thursday's 7-2 rout, the Senators scored three short-handed goals for a new team record, three goals on the power play and one while playing four-on-four. The first two short-handed goals eliminated the Penguins' 2-0 lead.

Defenceman Wade Redden agrees it was nice to see such a comeback but he's hoping for a better start tonight.

"Five-on-five we were not as good as we could be. We've got to be strong, especially since we're back at home."

Roster update:

The Senators will likely be without the services of Mike Fisher tonight because of the flu. Murray said after the pre-game skate the team would "play it by ear for a couple of hours" but he doubted Fisher would be ready by game time. Brian McGrattan will not play because of a swollen eye. To fill in, the Senators called up Steve Martins from their American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton.

Rookie goaltender Ray Emery will be returning in goal tonight.

"I always try to put in a good performance when I get a chance to play," Emery said. "It's exciting to be back in goal, especially here at home again."

Looking ahead

This will be the first of four games this week for the Senators before the NHL breaks for two weeks during the Winter Olympics in Italy.

"We want to stay in the race with Carolina," said Murray of this week's games against Pittsburgh (tonight), the New York Rangers (Wednesday), Atlanta Thrashers (Thursday) and Philadelphia Flyers (Saturday). Every game is really important. It was a busy week last week and we have some good teams this week. We have to focus here."

The Eastern Conference's Carolina Hurricanes lead the NHL with 80 points after 54 games. The Detroit Red Wings lead the Western Conference and are second in the NHL with 77 points after 54 games. Ottawa holds down third overall with the 75 points after 52 games. The Dallas Stars also have 75 points but have played 54 games.

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