Opening night is almost here

Playoff fever has been in the air here for several days, but it was hitting a fever pitch in the hours leading up to the series opener between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.

MONTREAL – Playoff fever has been in the air here for several days, but it was hitting a fever pitch in the hours leading up to the series opener between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.

“In the regular season, it’s loud (at the Bell Centre),” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said following Thursday’s morning skate. “I expect it to be even louder (Thursday night). But when you’re the road team, you always try to take the crowd out of it early by getting that first goal.”

As the Senators captain, Alfredsson is part of a leadership group which has to help prepare the club’s rookies for the big stage. Mika Zibanejad, Jakob Silfverberg, Cory Conacher, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and back-up goaltender Robin Lehner will be making their post-season debuts.

“The first (playoff) game is always exciting, no matter where you play and who you play, but playing a Canadian team, the hype is even bigger,” said Alfredsson.

Senators coach Paul MacLean will stick with a familiar lineup. The forward units will feature Milan Michalek with Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson, Guillaume Latendresse with Zibanejad and Silfverberg, Colin Greening alongside Zack Smith and Chris Neil and Conacher on a line with Pageau and Erik Condra.

The defence pairings will be Marc Methot-Erik Karlsson, Chris Phillips-Sergei Gonchar and Jared Cowen-Eric Gryba. The slight change here is that Cowen and Gryba will play together.

“They’re tall,” said MacLean, when asked for an explanation about the Cowen-Gryba combination. “I like that.”

Cowen is 6-5 and 228 pounds. Gryba stands 6-4 and 219 pounds.

The veteran Gonchar, who has played 118 career playoff games – most among Senators players – and won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, says the change is not a big deal.

“It’s more about the systems we’re playing than anything else,” he said.

Gonchar also says he can feel the energy in the city.

“The playoffs are the playoffs, it’s always special no matter who you play.”

Karlsson, who figures to be a target for the Canadiens throughout the series, acknowledges that there will be butterflies, but “we’ve got to try and not be too nervous or too stiff and just play the game.”

In case there was any doubt, Craig Anderson will get the start in goal.

When MacLean was asked about how long it might take for the Senators to settle into playing the way they want to play, he joked that it was more about whether the Canadiens chose to behave the way the Senators wanted them to.

“I’ve got a feeling they’re not going to behave the right way,” he said.

Tags: , , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment