Sens expect Leafs to bring it

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

All Jason Spezza had to do was look around his Kanata home last night to figure out who the visitors will be tonight at Scotiabank Place.

"I've got a house full," said the smiling Senators centre. "It's always that way when the Leafs are in town."

Spezza, a Mississauga native, is looking forward to another Saturday night special as the Senators battle the archrival Maple Leafs in front of more than 20,000 fans.

BATTLING HABS

With the resurgent Leafs back in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the Senators trying to keep pace with the Canadiens for home-ice advantage, tonight's game has plenty of significance.

The Senators are neck-and-neck with the Habs for fourth place in the East -- both teams have 62 points with Montreal holding a game in hand -- while the Leafs sit two points out the final playoff spot and could get a huge boost with a victory over the Senators.

"They're playing much better," said Ottawa centre Mike Fisher. "We're excited about playing them. Every game is so important. We're getting down to the last couple of months of the season and these divisional games are key. We really want to make a statement and continue to play well.

"Toronto is always a tough game. Our focus this year is to go into the playoffs and make sure that we're on top of our game. If we're doing that, we're probably going to get home-ice advantage (for at least the first round). In past years, we put too much emphasis on finishing high or getting first place. This year, we want to make sure we're playing as a team and together."

GREAT UNDER MURRAY

Despite all the hoopla surrounding tonight's game, Ottawa has owned the Leafs since Bryan Murray took over as coach, posting a 11-2 record, outscoring Toronto 60-32.

Asked about the stat following a short workout yesterday at the Bell Sensplex, Murray chose his words carefully.

"Last year, we had an awfully good hockey team and we scored a lot of goals," said Murray. "Things have changed somewhat this year. They pounded us pretty good in the first game that we played here (a 6-0 loss). Beyond that, I think they're improving.

"I don't know that history means an awful lot. You just have to look at an individual game and all I would look at is (tonight). There's nothing particular that we do against them, that we don't try to do against other teams."

Spezza said the Senators will have to continue to play well if they want home-ice advantage when the post-seasons begins in April.

"It's really big. (Especially) with the way teams are playing right now at home. We've picked it up at home," said Spezza. "We know Toronto and Montreal are both good home teams. These games are important to pick up points.

"We're pretty focused on the games against Toronto. There's that stigma that we can't beat the Leafs and that may give us a little extra motivation to try and beat them."


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