Sens hunting for Habs

Montreal Canadiens  Saku Koivu and teammates after getting his 500th career point in Montreal...

Montreal Canadiens Saku Koivu and teammates after getting his 500th career point in Montreal Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007.(CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, OTTAWA SUN

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

When the Senators make their way to the training room at Scotiabank Place, the NHL standings are on the wall to greet them.

Less than a month ago, the Senators trailed Northeast Division rival Montreal by 12 points as they sat on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

But as the teams prepare to kick off Hockey Day in Canada here today at 2 p.m., the Senators are breathing down the Habs' necks and can move within a point of Montreal for fourth spot in the East.

"We were a ways back from the Canadiens a few weeks ago and we've closed the gap," Senators coach Bryan Murray said following a 35-minute practice yesterday.

"SWING GAME"

"It's a big swing game. It gives us a chance to really be serious about battling for position with them, if we win. If we lose, we have to keep playing hard and hopefully get back in the position again.

"It should be a fun game and an interesting game. I know they are playing well and we have to keep doing the same."

The Senators have not had an easy time with the Habs this season with a 1-2 record in three games -- including a 6-3 setback the last time the took on the Habs on Nov. 13.

However, a lot has changed in the Senators' world:

* Martin Gerber was at the height of his struggles in the last loss vs. the Habs and has since been supplanted by G Ray Emery as the No. 1 netminder.

* The Senators have lost C Jason Spezza (knee) and C Mike Fisher (knee) to injuries, but are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, outscoring their opponents 39-21. They are, obviously, playing with a lot of confidence.

* When Senators' hot streak began on Dec. 23, the Habs were rolling with 47 points and Ottawa was struggling with 35. Today, Montreal has 55 and Ottawa has 52.

"We're a different team than we were when we played them earlier in the season," said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who has seven goals in the last 10 games.

The Senators have also been living a little dangerously. The club had to come back from a two-goal deficit in the third period Tuesday to score a 5-2 win over the Bruins and Thursday's 6-4 victory over the Rangers turned into a nail-biter in New York.

After breezing to a 5-0 lead, the Rangers came storming back with four unanswered goals in the third period.

The Senators learned the hard way that if they've got a team on the ropes, they'd better make sure they deliver the knockout punch.

MURRAY JOKES AROUND

"We just wanted to show we can win one-goal games," said that joker Murray. "You guys accuse of that all the time, so we wanted to do it. It ended up (a two-goal win) unfortunately."

Murray then turned serious.

"You gotta play the game right. It's disappointing when you do that and it's disappointing for Ray Emery in particular to get the traffic at the net," he said. "We won the hockey game and there are lessons to be learned all the time. We just indicated these types of things happen. It's about focus and sticking to the plan."


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