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Winning fuels Senators' drive

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
They are on a march of historic proportions, but the Ottawa Senators have no intention of falling victim to the hype.

Rather, they’ll continue to build on the fastest start the National Hockey League has ever witnessed the old-fashioned way – by working hard and working smart.

Ray Emery will make his third start of the season Thursday night, when the Senators face the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Place.
“We’re more concerned about playing the way we’re playing and trying to win hockey games,” winger Dany Heatley said Wednesday when asked about the Senators’ 13-1-0 start (an NHL record) and eight-game winning streak (a team mark). “That’s obviously a nice stat to have, but if we lose the next two or three games, I think we’re going to be disappointed.

“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We played a pretty solid game (Tuesday) night (a 5-1 beating of the Toronto Maple Leafs), and tomorrow we’ve got another test.”

That would be from the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin, who arrive at Scotiabank Place on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200). The Caps will face a team that has shown such machine-like efficiency at times that it is already drawing comparisons to powerhouses such as the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, who went 60-8-12 and set an NHL record for fewest losses in a season.

Not that the Senators are willing to put themselves in such elite company just yet.

“(The streak) is going to end someday,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “But we just want to go out there and work hard everyday, and give ourselves a chance to win.

“You can’t worry about the result or the streak too much, or get caught up in it too much. It’s more important to approach each game individually, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Alfredsson admitted the Senators “weren’t really as sharp as we could be” at the season’s outset, “and we won anyways. But lately, we’ve been getting better and better, and we’re reminded by video about the small things.”

“I think that’s the thing. You don’t want to beat yourself. We have a lot of good habits and the challenge now, when things are going well, is to maintain it. Then life will be a lot easier.”

And now it’s Ray Emery’s turn to help the cause again. After Wednesday’s practice at Scotiabank Place, head coach John Paddock announced Emery would get his third start of the season against the Capitals.

“It’s good to get back,” said Emery. “It’s great that the team’s been playing well, and I just want to get involved again.”

Emery hasn’t played in nearly a week, and only twice in the last 12 days. But he sees the situation for what it is at the moment.

“I understand if you’re winning, why mess with a good thing, right?” he said. “But I’m getting a chance to play (Thursday), and I’m happy for it.

“It’s not even been a week since I last played. That’s not too long a layoff.”

Meanwhile, the layoff for injured Senators centre Jason Spezza will continue for a fifth game. His groin injury is still on the mend, and Paddock said Spezza has been ruled out for Thursday’s game.

Might he make it back for Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens?

“(Spezza) needs to be involved in practice (Thursday), and he needs to be skated hard (on Thursday),” said Paddock. “Then there could be a chance that would happen.”

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