Habs invade Gatineau

Chris STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

The Montreal Canadiens rolled into town yesterday and set up camp in the Senators' backyard at the Robert Guertin Centre.

The Habs have now had one more practice at Le Bob than the Senators this season, a curious situation when you consider the Senators are looking for more fans and always lamenting the number of season tickets they've sold.

There's a rumour people in the Outaouais like hockey, so why not bring your product to them?

The Senators aren't going to get Habs fans to switch allegiances, but there are new, young hearts out there to be won.

OTTAWA CONNECTIONS

The diehard Habs fans will be out in force tonight, once again proud to be wearing their red, white and blue. The Canadiens, under former Hull Olympiques coach and Ottawa native Claude Julien, rode into town yesterday riding a three-game winning streak and in first place in the Northeast Division, two points ahead of the Senators, who hold two games in hand.

It all sets up the Senators for another nice rivalry. It's not anywhere near the Battle of Ontario -- yet -- but give it some time (and maybe a meeting in the playoffs or two).

"I think (the Senators) are the best team we've seen so far this year," said Canadiens defenceman Sheldon Souray, whose club lost 4-2 to the Senators Oct. 11 in Montreal's home opener. "Every year they have high expectations of themselves based on the success they've had. They remind me of the New Jersey Devils that way."

(Well, except for the Stanley Cups.)

The Senators will have forward Mike Fisher back in the lineup tonight, but he will shift from centre to wing, playing on a line with Bryan Smolinski in the middle and captain Daniel Alfredsson on the right side.

"I'll gladly play on the left side with those guys," said Fisher, who is coming off a mildly separated shoulder which kept him out for four games. "It's easier to go from centre to wing than wing to centre. I played wing for more than half the year in Europe last year."

EMERY EARNS START

Senators coach Bryan Murray, eyeing goaltender Ray Emery's fine work against the Habs so far this year, will start the rookie in goal tonight. Veteran Dominik Hasek could play both games on the weekend, in Toronto against the Maple Leafs Saturday night and back here against the Flyers on Sunday night.

"I'm chomping at the bit," said Emery, who made 27 saves in the win over the Habs. "It seems like it's been a long time since I played. Every time I get a chance to play, it means a lot to me."

The Senators are coming off a 3-2 loss against the Hurricanes Monday night, their first of the season.

"If anything, it was a little wake-up call for us," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips. "In the first few games, we were making some mistakes, but we were getting away with them. They get overshadowed. It's just little things, playing with new guys, communication."

"If you want to be a good team, you can't accept the fact you didn't work hard or you didn't play smart and ended up with a loss," said Murray. "All of us pay more attention to everything after you lose a game. But why do you have to lose a game to pay attention?"

The Habs, showing steady improvement under GM Bob Gainey and Julien's steady hand, beat the Flyers 3-2 in OT on Tuesday night to run their winning streak to three games.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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