SENATORS GAMEDAY - BUF AT OTT

 

With half of the Ottawa Senators’ season behind them, it’s time to look forward. Just not too far. While the hockey world waits with anticipation for Saturday’s tilt between the Beast of the East (Ottawa) and the Best of the West (Detroit), there’s anther job at hand tonight.

 
 
 
With half of the Ottawa Senators’ season behind them, it’s time to look forward. Just not too far.

While the hockey world waits with anticipation for Saturday’s tilt between the Beast of the East (Ottawa) and the Best of the West (Detroit), there’s anther job at hand tonight.

The Buffalo Sabres roll into town on another dip in their roller-coaster season. When the Senators faced them earlier this year, they were slumping. When they faced Buffalo again around Christmas, the Sabres were red-hot.

Now Thomas Vanek, Brian Campbell and Co. find themselves mired in a seven-game losing streak.

But that doesn’t mean the Senators are taking anything for granted.

“We never think of them as anything but a dangerous team,” head coach John Paddock said following the morning skate today. “We thought that the first time they came into the building, that this year they would get their game turned around after losing the players they did.

“They’ve hit one of those down-skids like we have and like every team in the league has in the last (few weeks),” he added. “We’re very aware of Buffalo.”

Martin Gerber will get the start in goal for the Senators, despite the fact Ray Emery has won two straight while the Swiss puckstopper has struggled. He looked more like Swiss cheese in allowing 10 goals in less than four periods of action against the Washington Capitals last week.

That said, Gerber has been excellent against the Sabres this season. He has two wins in as many tries, with a .928 save percentage and 2.50 goals-against average.

Ottawa’s big three of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley have also found success against Buffalo this season. Heatley leads all scorers in the season series so far, picking up seven points in four games. Alfredsson has five goals.

The Senators have had a light week, so there’s no reason to think they’ll come out as flat as they did in their last game (Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime comeback win against the Tampa Bay Lightning).

They’ve had two full days off since then, which is something centre Spezza appreciated.

“We’ve got 41 games in 87 days or something like that coming up so there’s not going to be many more times like this. So John took advantage of it and gave us a bit of time to rest and now guys are kind of ready to get back playing again.”

He said it was important that the Senators get a quick start against the Sabres.

“We just expect them to be a good hockey club,” he said. “When you play against a team and they’re losing games, you want to make sure you get off to a good start and maybe they get on each other a little bit, a little negativity creeps into their game.”

The Sabres, meanwhile, will try and shake things up by starting backup Jocelyn Thibault in goal for the first time in more than a month. Thibault relieved starter Ryan Miller in the last contest between these two teams, a 5-3 Ottawa win on Friday.

NOTES FROM THE MORNING SKATE

FISHER A GO

Mike Fisher will play tonight, despite fighting a bout of the flu the past few days. The sickness seems to moving through the room and has already caused a handful of Senators, including Joe Corvo and Randy Robitaille, to miss time.

“I feel fine – it was pretty quick,” Fisher said following the morning skate today. “I didn’t feel great yesterday, but for the most part felt pretty good during the skate.”

Patrick Eaves won’t play tonight, but could return to the lineup as early as this weekend.

MCAMMOND FIRES BACK

Dean McAmmond responded to comments yesterday by former Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke that the Senators’ veteran centre was partially at fault for receiving a concussion during the preseason. McAmmond was knocked out when the Flyers’ Steve Downie left his feet to deliver a check to the head, a move the rookie received a 20-game suspension for.

Clarke suggested the punishment was absurd and blamed McAmmond for not keeping his head up.

“I wouldn’t agree with that,” McAmmond said today. “We’re addressing the whole head hitting, head-hunting factor. That was just a hit that covered all the bases.”

He acknowledged it was a lesson learned and that he would be more aware from now on, but added that didn’t condone Downie’s actions.

NO NUMMINEN

When the Buffalo Sabres were struggling earlier this year, John Paddock had his own theory about why. It wasn’t just because they lost Daniel Briere and Chris Drury over the summer – though that did contribute. Paddock felt they were missing workhorse defenceman Teppo Numminen, who was out following heart surgery.

If that is the case, the Sabres are in for more pain. According to the Buffalo News, Numminen had been skating with the team for about a month but had to return home this week. Doctors told him that he has to wait at least six months from the Sept. 17 surgery date to be cleared for contact, which brings him to mid-March. Even that’s not a sure thing and speculation is that Numminen likely won’t get back into the lineup this season. The Sabres’ last game is on April 5.

 
 
 
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