Sens face Wilma wipeout

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Senators' toughest opponent this weekend could be Hurricane Wilma.

After arriving in Florida three days early to enjoy some time in the sun before facing the Tampa Bay Lightning here tomorrow night, it appears the Senators will have their trip cut short because their game against the Florida Panthers on Saturday will have to be rescheduled.

Wilma, upgraded to a Category 5 storm (with maximum sustained winds of 260 km/h) yesterday, is expected to hit South Florida on Saturday night just about the time the Senators are scheduled to face off vs. the Panthers.

Officials from the Senators, Panthers and NHL held a conference call yesterday to discuss the situation. An announcement was put off until today, but it's believed the game will be played Dec. 5.

The University of Miami has already cancelled its NCAA football game with Georgia Tech, scheduled for Saturday at the Orange Bowl. It has been rescheduled for Nov. 19.

"We're monitoring the status of Hurricane Wilma and making contingency plans in conjunction with the clubs in case the game has to be rescheduled," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail to the Sun.

The Senators are making tentative plans to fly straight to Raleigh after Friday's matchup to prepare for their game Monday against the Hurricanes.

PUT OFF MEETING MARTIN

The postponement of Saturday's game would also delay Ottawa's first game vs. former coach Jacques Martin.

Moving the game will likely be greeted with a sigh of relief by the players, who have been nervously watching the Weather Channel.

"I've never experienced a hurricane and I don't want to either," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who added hurricanes do not occur in Sweden. "I'm sure given the situation the league is going to take every precaution and do the right thing."

Currently, the club is scheduled to fly to Fort Lauderdale immediately after facing the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Senators could make the four-hour bus ride across the state if high winds won't allow them to fly.

After Saturday's game against the Panthers, the Senators planned to stay overnight in Fort Lauderdale, but those plans could all be changed.

Senators coach Bryan Murray spent seven years with the Panthers as their GM and knows how Floridians react to storms.

"They spend hours on coverage of storms down here. You know how they talk about sports in Canada for hours? Well they talk the same way about storms here. They know what can happen with these storms," said Murray.

"I only had to move inland once during my seven years here. We have a house on the coast and we moved inland so we only had high winds. I don't think where the rink is located in (Sunrise) it would be a problem."

Centre Jason Spezza said he'd rather avoid the storm.

"I don't know what a hurricane is like and I'd rather not find out," he said.


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