The man they call Razor will have to be as sharp as a good Gillette tonight.
Not only is Senators goalie Ray Emery facing the combination of the NHL's top-scoring player (Sidney Crosby) and top-scoring rookie (Evgeni Malkin) for the first time, but he's also catching the Pittsburgh Penguins on a bit of a tear. Intent on pulling into a tie with the Senators for fourth in the East, they have 17 wins in their last 23 games.
The Penguins, who haven't beaten the Senators in more than two seasons, are a pair of points behind Ottawa and have a game in hand.
"I've (faced) Crosby a few times, but I haven't (faced) the 1-2 punch yet," Emery said yesterday. "I've just seen highlights of Malkin.
"You definitely know what they have to offer as far as offence goes. But I like playing those teams where there are guys you can key on, that you have to watch when they're on the ice. It kind of keeps you on your game a bit."
The Senators are not in as good a place as they were, to be sure. They are returning home after claiming just one point on a two-game roadie to Atlanta and Chicago -- a trip that saw them twice blow third-period leads. And they are also hurting again.
Peter Schaefer, who left the Blackhawks game early with a nagging shoulder injury, didn't practise yesterday. Chris Kelly did, but left early favoring the hand/wrist he injured in Chicago. Daniel Alfredsson also left practice limping in obvious discomfort, but he'll play tonight.
With one or both of Schaefer and Kelly likely to miss the game, Patrick Eaves and/or Brian McGrattan will return and combinations will have to be adjusted again.
"As I told the guys, I think it's really important they are flexible, because of the type of team we have, that they can play right or left wing," said coach Bryan Murray.
Tonight will mark the debut in Ottawa of Gary Roberts as a Penguin. The former 67's star wanted to return to Ontario if he was going to be traded from the Florida Panthers at the deadline, but neither the Senators or Leafs would meet the asking price.
Roberts has a goal, two assists and nine penalty minutes (including a fight) in three games with the Penguins, displaying the type of punch many thought was required here.
Tonight's game at Scotiabank Place could also be a playoff preview.
While Pittsburgh is viewed as a possible first-round opponent for the Senators, the standings remain very tight and there is still more than a month to go.
"This is a college season we have left ... there are 34 points sitting there for somebody to grab," said Murray. "There's a lot of things that can happen. Who knows? We play Pittsburgh three more times. We can determine for each other possibly where we finish, in what order."
"They're playing arguably their best hockey of the year and we're coming off two losses," said Jason Spezza. "We're back at home, we don't have many home games left, so it's a big game for us."
Said Alfredsson: "It's going to be a very fun game, in that there's probably going to be some pretty good intensity. Both teams are battling for fourth, and it could be a team we'll be facing in the playoffs."