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Young Sens aim to embrace Garden's mystique

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Roman Wick's parents have arrived in New York from Switzerland and will watch the Senators forward play an NHL game for the first time at Madison Square Garden tonight (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
NEW YORK — Its walls reek of sporting history and the giants of the entertainment world.

Yes, there really is no place like Madison Square Garden, which bills itself as "the world's most famous arena" and is perhaps the most hallowed venue in the National Hockey League. And for the youngest Ottawa Senators, it is indeed a case of bright lights, big city heading into their matchup with the New York Rangers tonight (7 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).

"I’m excited," said rookie forward Erik Condra, who makes his MSG debut this evening. "I’ve heard so many stories about how loud it gets or how exciting the fans are. So I’d like to see it for myself and I’m excited.

"Coming from Detroit, I didn’t know so much about (the Garden). But the New York Rangers are America’s team and you hear so much about them. And the building itself means so much."

For Swiss rookie Roman Wick, it's quite the stage for his parents, Marcel and Jeannette, to watch their son play an NHL game for the first time. They couldn't make it across the pond for his debut with the Senators on Feb. 25 in Buffalo, but this will surely do as a makeup.

"It’s great for every player to get their parents to come watch an NHL game," said Wick. "In New York, at Madison Square Garden, where there’s lots of history ... I’m happy they get to see this game."

Forward Colin Greening, who twice played before sellout crowds at MSG during his college days at Cornell, isn't any less excited about doing it for the first time as an NHLer.

"If you’re a player that can relish playing in a historic barn like this, then I think you’ll do really well," he said. "There are a lot of guys on the team that have been talking about it this morning and are looking forward to the opportunity."

While Senators head coach Cory Clouston understands such excitement, he also hopes his team can build off the strong play they showed Tuesday night in a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. Ottawa couldn't hold a 2-0 lead in that game, despite outshooting the Canes by a wide 39-24 margin.

"We felt that we deserved a win," he said. "We felt that we played hard enough and we outworked a team that is tough to do (it against) in their building ... a team that works extremely hard and a team that’s fighting for their playoff lives. We did a lot of good things and we’re just trying to focus on that more than anything.

"If anything, they can draw from the emotion, from the crowd and from the energy from the crowd (tonight)."

The Blueshirts, meanwhile, enter tonight's game riding a five-game winning streak and the hot goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist, who posted his league-leading 10th shutout in a victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Ottawa, meanwhile, will counter with Craig Anderson, who makes his first start in goal since signing a four-year contract with the Senators earlier this week. He's finally good to go after sitting out three games with a nagging lower-body ailment.

"He’s done a lot of good things for us," Clouston said of Anderson. "He had a little setback with the injury and we wanted to make sure we didn’t put him in a situation where he’s going to re-aggravate that or put him in a situation where he wasn’t confident in his physical ability."

Around the boards

If he's still with the team, Wick's parents plan to take in Friday's game against the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200). They're scheduled to return home to Switzerland from Ottawa ... Milan Michalek's return to the lineup has been put on hold for one more day. With the Senators facing back-to-back games tonight and Friday, the decision was made to hold him out against the Blueshirts. "He won’t play today, but we think he’ll be ready for tomorrow," said Clouston. "We just want to make sure when he goes in, the confidence is there. The back-to-back (games) are tough, so if he’s only going to play one of them, we’ll give him an extra day."

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