Kassian joins Battle of Ontario, but will avoid anything ‘foolish’

The biggest change on the Ottawa Senators roster since the last time they met the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 6 is the addition of 6-foot-4, 232-pound winger Matt Kassian.

Kassian joins Battle of Ontario, but will avoid anything ‘foolish’
Ottawa Senators winger Matt Kassian, right, and Tampa Bay Lightning winger B.J. Crombeen fight during first period NHL hockey action in Ottawa on Saturday, March 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

The biggest change on the Ottawa Senators roster since the last time they met the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 6 is the addition of 6-foot-4, 232-pound winger Matt Kassian.

Kassian, acquired from the Minnesota Wild on March 12 – in the wake of the devastating punch Toronto’s Frazer McLaren landed on the Senators’ Dave Dziurzynski – knows he’s in the lineup to help protect the club’s skilled players.

Just the same, he insists he’s not about to do something “foolish” and he’s not going into Saturday’s game looking for trouble.

“For me, I just have to prepare and focus the same way I always have,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning games. It’s unnecessary to go out there looking for something.”

Kassian, an Edmonton native, may be new to the Battle of Ontario, but he says it’s similar to the rivalry he grew up watching between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames in the Battle of Alberta.

“It just feels like it’s more important,” he said.

It is a four-point game with fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings at stake. A Senators victory in regulation pulls them four points ahead of the Maple Leafs. If Toronto wins in regulation, the clubs would be deadlocked for fifth. The Maple Leafs have 13 games remaining and the Senators have 14 left to play.

With a victory, the Senators would also complete their five-game homestand with a tidy 4-1 record before heading out on a two-week journey.

Even though Senators goaltender Ben Bishop pitched a 3-0 shutout Thursday over the New York Rangers, Senators coach Paul MacLean refused to announce his starter on Friday. While Bishop has been outstanding of late, he gave up all five goals in Toronto’s 5-4 win on March 6. MacLean could opt to start Robin Lehner, who has a 3-1-4 record, a 2.05 goals against average and .940 save percentage.

The Maple Leafs will likely counter with James Reimer, who has regained hold of the number one job in Toronto. Reimer has a record of 12-4-4.

 BENOIT EARNS BRAGGING RIGHTS

Andre Benoit is keeping the puck from his second career goal, scored during Thursday’s 3-0 win over the New York Rangers. It’s a significant accomplishment, at least within the family. Benoit now has 10 career points, bypassing his father-in-law – Senators goaltending coach Rick Wamsley – in the family’s all-time NHL scoring race. Wamsley had nine assists during his 13-year career as an NHL goaltender.

Benoit also turned in a career high 22:00, quite the number for a 29-year-old who had played only eight NHL games before the season.

“I’m used to playing lots in Binghamton (of the American Hockey League),” he said. “It’s easier to stay in the game, get with the flow of things.”

MacLean says there’s a simple reason why Benoit played so much against the Rangers.

“The best players play,” he said. “He was playing (well), so get him out there.”

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