Clash of titans

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Even the players are excited about this one.

First against first.

"You love these challenges in the middle of the season," said Red Wings forward Kris Draper after the Detroit practised at the University of Ottawa in preparation for tonight's meeting with the Senators at Scotiabank Place.

"There's been a lot of talk about which line is best, which team is best ... it's fun. Everybody's caught up in it."

The Wings and the Senators will settle the question on the ice tonight.

We do it on paper right now.

Sun Media consulted a general manager, a couple of pro scouts -- one from an Eastern Conference team and one from the Western -- and a player from a club that recently played both the Senators and the Wings to break down tonight's matchup.

Here's what they had to say:

GOALTENDING

"I think the goaltending situation is a wash," said the player. "Both teams are using two goaltenders and I don't think any of them can be considered among the elite. I don't think any of them give their team the advantage."

One of the scouts gave the nod to the Red Wings because he thinks Senators goaltender Ray Emery has become a distraction to his team. "I think he's a nuisance," he said. "I think he disrupts their team with the undisciplined stuff. I just wonder if they are going to play hard in front of him after some of the stuff he's pulled."

"I give the edge to Detroit because of the inconsistency of Emery and Gerber," said the Western scout. "(Chris) Osgood and the old guy (Dominik Hasek) have been good."

EDGE: Detroit (barely).

DEFENCE

"Detroit is a lot better on the back end because Nicklas Lidstrom is there," the player said of the Norris Trophy winner five of the last six times it's been awarded.

"I definitely give the edge to the Wings on defence. With (Brian) Rafalski and Lidstrom, there's a lot of skill there. You add the experience of (Chris) Chelios, there's no problem there."

Said the Eastern scout: "Rafalski is playing better than he ever has. He's moving up and joining the play. He was restricted playing in New Jersey."

"Lidstrom and Rafalski are above everybody with Ottawa, but Ottawa is better in the bottom three or four," said the Western scout. "I was really impressed with Chelios at 45 years old, the way he's playing. I give a little edge to Detroit because of the top two."

EDGE: Detroit

FORWARDS

"When we played against the Wings, it was men against boys," said the player. "(Henrik) Zetterberg is just sick. He is just so good. The guy is always in perpetual motion, he's always moving his feet. I don't know how guys do it. Him, Sidney Crosby, Joe Sakic ... they're always moving and getting into the right spots."

"I think the two top lines are just about even," said the scout from the West. "Zetterberg and Datsyuk aren't on the same line right now, but they play together on the power play and they are just as dominant as Spezza and Heatley on the power play. I like Ottawa's forwards better because they have a little more variety. They've got more speed and strength. I like the second line with (Mike) Fisher. They've got a tough guy like (Chris) Neil. Everybody would love to have a guy like that and I think the Wings are missing that type of player. Physically, Ottawa's got better assets for that."

"I think Ottawa's four lines are a little better balanced," said the East scout.

Wings coach Mike Babcock said he's going to wait and see what Senators coach John Paddock wants to do in terms of the matchups.

"We'll see what we draw," he said. "Sometimes it's just important to accept the matchup. There have been times we've just picked a line to go head-to-head and told them, 'you've got to win the matchup.' "

EDGE: Ottawa

OVERALL

"I like both the teams and the way they play hockey," said the GM. "They play a puck-possession, high-tempo game. That's what we all want to be. Detroit plays so well positionally and they don't make mistakes. You have to be patient with Ottawa, too. This is a great matchup."

THE LAST WORD

"I'll take Ottawa," said the player, "but only because they're playing at home."

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HOW THE RED WINGS LINE UP

FORWARDS

51 Valtteri Filppula- 13 Pavel Datsyuk- 96 Tomas Holmstrom

11 Daniel Cleary- 26 Jiri Hudler- 40 Henrik Zetterberg

82 Tomas Kopecky- 93 Johan Franzen- 37 Mikael Samuelsson

17 Dallas Drake- 33 Kris Draper- 18 Matt Ellis

DEFENCE

5 Nicklas Lidstrom- 28 Brian Rafalski

3 Andreas Lilja- 55 Niklas Kronwall

22 Brett Lebda- 24 Chris Chelios

GOALTENDERS

39 Dominik Hasek, 30 Chris Osgood

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HOW THE SENATORS LINE UP

FORWARDS

15 Dany Heatley- 19 Jason Spezza- 11 Daniel Alfredsson

27 Randy Robitaille- 12 Mike Fisher- 25 Chris Neil

20 Antoine Vermette- 22 Chris Kelly- 10 Shean Donovan

5 Christoph Schubert- 37 Dean McAmmond- 58 Cody Bass

DEFENCE

5 Chris Phillips- 24 Anton Volchenkov

6 Wade Redden- 7 Joe Corvo

2 Luke Richardson- 14 Andrej Meszaros

GOALTENDERS

1 Ray Emery, 29 Martin Gerber


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