Huge challenge for Sens

Jesse Winchester will play his first game at centre tonight for the Sens. (Sun Media File)

Jesse Winchester will play his first game at centre tonight for the Sens. (Sun Media File)

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:06 PM ET

If the game was played on paper, the Senators would be crumpled up and tossed away by the Boston Bruins.

But new Ottawa coach Cory Clouston says he saw some positive signs from his players at today's morning skate.

"We know they're an elite team and there's a reason for that," Clouston said of the Bruins in his pre-game address of the media. "They play hard, they play smart, there's not a lot of weaknesses in their game. We know it's a tough task, but I think our guys feel good about the challenge. They're excited about the game as opposed to being apprehensive."

The matchup is one-sided, for sure. The Senators are 13th in the Eastern Conference and have scored an NHL-low 116 goals.

The Bruins are first overall in the NHL and, along with leading their conference in both goals for and against, boast a 19-5-3 road record.

At least Ottawa is 11-9-4 at Scotiabank Place this season.

After watching Boston's 3-1 victory over Philadelphia Wednesday, Clouston has made a lineup change. Veteran Dean McAmmond will be replaced as the fourth-line centre by rookie Jesse Winchester, a natural winger who will be playing his first NHL game at the position.

Clouston, who is trying to get "a little more size and strength up the middle", will also use Christoph Schubert up front.

Clouston called Boston's fourth line of Shawn Thornton, Stephane Yelle and 6-foot-5, 215-lb. rookie Bryron Bitz "dominant" against the Flyers.

In trying to generate some offence against the stingy B's, Clouston said his players have to be more direct on the attack.

"We want to try to put more pucks on, be a little simpler around the offensive zone," he said. "They really do a very good job of clogging up the middle, so we're going to have to try and get shots from all areas, try to create rebounds, try to be strong on the rebounds.

"You watch this morning's skate, some of our guys have a tendency to make two, three passes when they get across that blue line. In games, those passes are not there. You have to get across that blue line, create havoc at the net and get shots and traffic at the goaltender.

"Most teams nowadays, it's very difficult to be fancy around the offensive zone, and that's what creates turnovers, if you try to force passes when they're just not there. Get shots to the net and create some havoc in the 'D' zone for them."

Ryan Shannon, who has 35 points in 36 games for Binghamton this season, has been recalled and is expected to play on a line with Mike Fisher and Nick Foligno.

Brian Elliott will start on goal for the Senators.

As of this morning, almost 3,000 tickets were still available for the game (7 p.m., Scotiabank Place, TSN / RDS).


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