Elliott gets call against Caps

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Hot goaltender Brian Elliott will get a chance to help the Senators clinch a playoff spot tonight against the best team in the Eastern Conference.

In a move that surprises no one, coach Cory Clouston tapped Elliott to start tonight's game against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m., SportsNet). He's shooting for his fifth straight win, and with a victory, the Senators might be able to lock up their berth in the NHL's postseason tourney.

In order to accomplish the trick, first the Senators must win against the Capitals at Verizon Center. Combine an Ottawa victory with anything less than a win by both the Atlanta Thrashers (in Toronto) and the New York Rangers (in Long Island) and Ottawa will have locked up at least the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Otherwise, the Senators need to get to the 90-point mark over their remaining six games to erase any chance of the Thrashers and Rangers catching them. Ottawa missed the playoffs last season, but team management certainly seems confident they'll be back this spring.

The Senators plan to start selling playoff tickets on Saturday, April 3 for round one.

Callup Brian Lee will be in the roster on the blueline tonight in place of injured Anton Volchenkov. At least to start the game, it appears he'll be paired with veteran Chris Phillips.

"He's been here before, he's had success," Clouston said or Lee. "It's been an up and down season for him this year.

"He's got to look at what he needs to do tonight. keep his game as simple as possible, move the puck, don't try to do too much ... and the big thing is just move his feet. If he can get back and retrieve pucks as quick as he possibly can ... don't hang on to the puck too long."

The loss of Volchenkov against a powerful offence like the Capitals leaves a big hole on the blue line, but Clouston said the rest of the group simply has to adjust.

"We're talking to the whole defensive core, to make sure we know how we want to defend," he said. "It's not just the defence. If you think it's just the defenceman that are going to do a good job defensively, we're in trouble. We've stressed the whole season making sure we have the support of our forwards. What we call it is numbers at our blue line.

"If we do that, generally we nulify any rush, and we come into good defensive positioning," he said. "If we can get that down, that's probably 75 per cent of the battle right there."

Elsewhere this morning, newly signed NCAA star Bobby Butler is in Washington with the team today and wearing No. 16 at his first practice. He is not expected to suit up tonight, but might play as early as Thursday versus Carolina. Butler was signed to a two-year free agent deal by the Senators on Monday out of the University of New Hampshire.


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