Bring on the Leafs

A group of Senators do line drill at practice on the third day of the Ottawa Senators 2005-06...

A group of Senators do line drill at practice on the third day of the Ottawa Senators 2005-06 training camp at the Corel Centre in Ottawa on Sept 15, 2005. (SUN/Sean Kilpatrick)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

TORONTO -- Let the Battle of Ontario begin -- again.

After a one-year sabbatical, the Senators hit the ice for their first exhibition game tonight -- against their old nemesis -- the Maple Leafs.

There'll be plenty of familiar names on hand for the Senators. Players like Jason Spezza, Martin Havlat, Daniel Alfredsson, Wade Redden, Chris Phillips and Zdeno Chara.

But with training camp in Phase II, it'll be some new faces that coach Bryan Murray and GM John Muckler really want to watch.

One newcomer who won't have to worry about getting a roster spot is Dany Heatley, obtained in a trade for Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries. Heatley will make his Senators debut tonight.

There are two openings up front and three on the blue line. And it's up to the players to make an impression heading into the opening of the NHL season, on Oct. 5.

Not only are tough guys Chris Neil and Brian McGrattan in the lineup tonight, defencemen Lance Ward and Andrej Meszaros are also going to get a chance to make an impression and crack a roster that is strong.

"I want to get a look at guys and I want to get a look at some of these guys with a good roster," said Murray. "If guys like (Brandon) Bochenski, Meszaros and Ward are going to have a chance to make this team, they should be surrounded by good players.

"This will be a good chance for them. I want to see if Chris Neil can play on the third line and I want to see if McGrattan is an NHL player.

"Guys like (Dany) Heatley and (Jason) Spezza are skill guys and they're going to do their job. We want to see how the role players perform. Those are the guys we're going to have to make decisions on."

McGrattan knows this is a great opportunity for him. With the Senators hoping to get a bit more rugged, McGrattan won't be afraid to drop the gloves if that's what it takes.

"I know what my role is and I have to go in there and try to perform it to the best of my abilities," he said. "If that means I have to go in there and fight then I have to fight. I'll do whatever it takes to have success."

One newcomer who won't make his Ottawa debut is goalie Dominik Hasek. Ray Emery will start and is expected to play the full 60 minutes. Binghamton's Billy Thompson is going to dress as the backup.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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