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Wait is finally over for an anxious Michalek

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Five months after undergoing major knee surgery, Senators forward Milan Michalek returns to game action when the Montreal Canadiens visit Scotiabank Place tonight (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).

Check out the game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Montreal pre-season matchup.

Now it's Milan Michalek's turn to put his knee to the true test.

One night after Alex Kovalev saw more than 22 minutes' worth of action in his pre-season debut, Michalek suits up for the Ottawa Senators tonight at Scotiabank Place against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m., Rogers TV, Team 1200).

Both forwards underwent major surgery to repair torn ACLs back in April. Kovalev passed his initial test during Friday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. Now an anxious Michalek gets his shot.

"I'm really excited," said the Czech winger. "I've been waiting for this for the past five months. It was hard for me, a hard rehab, but now I'm back and I'm really excited to get going again."

Senators head coach Cory Clouston said he'll let the game itself dictate how much action Michalek sees tonight against the Canadiens.

"We'll see how the game develops," he said earlier today. "Those guys need to play minutes. They need to play the power play and penalty kill, like they normally would in a regular-season game. We'll gauge their minutes accordingly. We talk to the players on the bench and make sure they're feeling well and energized, and you want to make sure you get some feedback from them before you start playing them that many (minutes)"

Added Michalek: "The biggest test is going to be all the battles and trying to take contact. I don't know how much ice time I'll get, but we'll see."

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who's making his pre-season debut tonight after undergoing off-season surgery himself to repair a sports hernia injury, echoed that sentiment, saying "he looks like he's back to normal (in practice), but it's different in a game."

"Confidence is a big thing and battling for pucks will be important for him," added Alfredsson. "But that'll come. He's looked good in camp."

Tonight's pre-season home-opener also gives Senators fans their first glimpse at the team's big summer acquisition, defenceman Sergei Gonchar. Most notably, the former Pittsburgh Penguins standout has been brought on board to add some juice to the Senators power play.

"Hopefully, they can go out there and execute," said Clouston. "A lot of those guys have played together but Sergei is new to the mix. But he's a smart guy and he's experienced. We need it to score some goals in the regular season and we need it to start putting in some goals in our pre-season so we can try to get some momentum."

Centre Jason Spezza is eager to find out how Gonchar will fit in — and elevate — that particular specialty unit's performance level.

"There's no real way of getting to know each other, other than playing with each together," he said. "It's nice that we get to play with Gonch tonight and we're going to see a lot of each other on the power play."

Around the boards

Goaltender Brian Elliott is slated to play the full 60 minutes tonight, with Robin Lehner dressing as the backup ... Hometown boy Corey Cowick, a former Ottawa 67s standout, makes his NHL debut with the Senators tonight. "He works hard, he's a big physical player and he's come to camp with some added size and strength," said Clouston. "He'll get a chance tonight." ... The Senators and Buffalo Sabres head to Dundas, Ont., on Tuesday night to play in the annual Kraft Hockeyville game. 
The Senators roster for tonight's game at Scotiabank Place against the Canadiens:

Goaltenders: Brian Elliott, Robin Lehner.

Defence: Chris Campoli, Matt Carkner, Jared Cowen, Sergei Gonchar, David Hale, Brian Lee.

Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson, Bobby Butler, Corey Cowick, David Dziurzynski, Nick Foligno, Mike Hoffman, Milan Michalek, Chris Neil, Jim O'Brien, Zack Smith, Jason Spezza, Jesse Winchester.

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