Clouston sees Canadiens as ‘measuring stick’ for Senators

The Ottawa Senators are hoping the third time’s a charm when they face the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night.

Clouston sees Canadiens as ‘measuring stick’ for Senators
Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators scores during the shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators are hoping the third time’s a charm when they face the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night.

They’ve already dropped two contests to the Habs this season (by 4-3 and 3-0 scores), but head into Quebec with some momentum after picking up four wins in their last five games.

Coach Cory Clouston said his team didn’t play a full 60 minutes in either game and he’ll be preaching a sustained effort ahead of this one.

“The (first) game, we were up 3-1, we started to sit back a little bit and they just got momentum, momentum and we kind of slowed down,” he said.

The fact Saturday’s game is a divisional match-up makes winning all the more important. The Senators must continue making up ground after a slow start to the year.

“It’s a measuring stick for us for sure,” Clouston said.

The coach was asked about the Senators’ tendency to play passively when they have leads late in games, which has led to a handful of dicey third period outings this season. Last season, they would often put the pedal down when they had a chance to lock in two points.

“It’s not by design, no,” Clouston said with a chuckle. “When you get off to a bad start like we (did), it’s easy to say ‘don’t sit back,’ but when you go into an intermission with a 3-0 lead and have an opportunity to sit back and reflect and you often come out and…play not to lose.”

He said it’s important to give the opposition credit for not quitting.

Clouston also gave an injury update on ailing defenceman Filip Kuba, who hasn’t played since breaking his leg during training camp. It was believed  the big blueliner might be ready to go against Montreal, but he’ll miss at least one more contest.

“He’s not quite there yet,” Clouston said. “He’s got to be 100 per cent confident and we’re not there yet.”

Winger Milan Michalek will also miss the game as he continues to suffer the aftereffects of summer knee surgery. There’s a chance he could skate Saturday morning, but he probably won’t return to the lineup until late next week.

Meanwhile, the Senators conveniently re-assigned centre Zack Smith to AHL Binghamton for at least one night. The B-Sens are playing Montreal’s farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, at the Bell Centre Friday.

Ottawa could then either recall Smith — who hasn’t played all that well in the NHL this season and took a major penalty in the opening minutes against the Islanders Thursday night — or someone else who management believes has earned some playing time here.

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