Cue an intriguing showdown

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:45 PM ET

Unless they're fortunate enough to meet in the Stanley Cup final this spring, this will be the only opportunity for the Calgary Flames to see how they match up against the class of the Eastern Conference.

The Ottawa Senators are in town tonight (8 p.m.) for a marquee Hockey Night in Canada matchup at the Saddledome and Flames players are happy to have home-ice advantage for their lone tilt against what has been the best team through 25 games of the NHL's new era.

"It's a huge difference for us," said Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr yesterday after a spirited skate. "It's nice to see the building full, first of all. And also, when fans are into the game, they're creating an energy. It starts in the stands."

Crowds have been large and loud in Calgary this season and a visit from the red-hot Senators should have fans in a frenzy.

"As a player, you can feel that buzz in the arena," Regehr continued. "That being said, though, a lot of the onus comes on us as a team to come out with a real good start and show the fans that we're in it and we're on top of our game. That'll just do that much more to get them excited about the game."

A fast start, something the Flames have occasionally struggled this season, will be key if they want to keep the Sens' celebrations to a minimum.

The Senators have just four losses this season and are undefeated when leading after two periods. Usually, those leads are pretty substantial.

"It all comes down to a real good start," said Regehr, whose Flames should have a little more jump with the Senators playing last night in Vancouver.

"All the signs point to being able to come out and really play a high-tempo game, something that we have to do," said Regehr. "That'll start right from (this) morning when we come to the rink."

Tonight's game is the last for Calgary until next Saturday when the Boston Bruins roll into town. The week of relative rest should provide ample added motivation for the Flames to hold nothing back, said blueliner Bryan Marchment.

"We should come out ready," said Marchment. "We've got nothing to save it for, we've got some time off after that. It's going to be exciting."

Flames forward Daymond Langkow, who has four goals and a pair of helpers in his last three games, agrees there should be nothing left in the tank when the final buzzer sounds tonight.

Darren McCarty and linemates Marcus Nilson and Stephane Yelle will likely spend a lot of time on the ice against the Senators' top trio -- comprised of Jason Spezza, captain Daniel Alfredsson and Calgarian Dany Heatley. McCarty is looking forward to the challenge.

"Just from watching them and seeing how good they are, they've got a great team," said McCarty.

"Not just that first line. It'll be interesting to have an opportunity to play against those three guys (but) they've got a great supporting cast, too. We've got to play our game. We've got to skate and be physical and play our way, Calgary Flames hockey -- fast, physical, disciplined.

"When you play against teams from the Eastern Conference, you sort of represent your conference and you want to see where you're at. The only other time you get to play them is if you make it to the Stanley Cup finals."

And most of the current Flames remember how difficult that is.


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