Sens look to 'come out with a bang'

The Ottawa Senators are excited to get the season started. (REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

The Ottawa Senators are excited to get the season started. (REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

The Senators are stepping right into the line of fire to start the season.

After facing the Sabres in the home-opener Friday, the Senators will travel to Toronto to battle the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

With training camp finally behind them, the Senators are excited to get going against two division rivals after a disappointing first-round playoff exit last spring.

“Because they are division games, you’re going to have the automatic rivalry and the intensity that is going to come with it,” said Senators coach Cory Clouston.

“Sometimes, if you were to play a team you only see twice a year, you don’t know them and you’re not as familiar with them. We’ve already gotten a taste of them (in the pre-season). The intensity comes with the fact we’ve played these guys so many times.”

The Senators have pretty much owned the Sabres since the lockout ended in 2005. Ottawa has a 25-7-4 record vs. Buffalo since 2005-06. That doesn’t mean it has been easy for the Senators.

Bad blood between the rivals has built up over the years, although the Sabres will look different Friday without Adam Mair and Andrew Peters running around. Cody McCormick, however, showed during the pre-season that he is willing to mix it up.

“They come out and they play hard. They’re fast and they’re energetic,” said Senators winger Chris Neil, who has had his share of battles with Sabres. “They’ve got some good players as well. We know we have to play with intensity and get our fans into the game early.

“We’ve got to come out with a bang. Even if they have a different group of guys out there, something usually happens. ... We gotta make sure we’re ready because we want the two points.”

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said the Senators have improved.

“They’re going to be tough,” said Ruff. “Their depth at scoring should be pretty good. They’ve got a couple of defencemen that are mobile and get up into the play. They ended up proving last year, when they crawled back into (the playoff race), that they’re a good team.”

Ruff also predicted the Senators will be more vulnerable without shot-blocker Anton Volchenkov.

“You would anticipate that (you could get more shots through) because he was a heck of a shot-blocking defenceman,” said Ruff. “And, he was a guy who could step up once a game and lay the body to someone.”

AROUND THE BOARDS

Pascal Leclaire is excited about opening night, but once the “firecrackers” go off, it’s just another game for the Senators goaltender. “It’s about fun, firecrackers and the smoke, but when you drop the puck it is all the same thing,” he told CBC’s Dan Seguin in French ... The Senators are 8-3-6 in season-openers, good for a .647 winning percentage that’s second only to the Avalanche (.683). Ottawa is 2-2-2 against Buffalo in openers.

KUBA ON MEND

Senators D Filip Kuba faced the media for the first time since breaking his leg on the first day of training camp after hitting a rut in the ice. While Kuba is rehabilitating in a new pool the club bought to speed up recovery from injuries, he doesn’t expect to play for 3-4 more weeks. “I knew right away because I felt something happen and I knew it was not good,” said Kuba. He has also been able to stay in shape by working out on the bike. But there is no timetable for his return to the ice.

THIS 'N' THAT

The Sabres will be keeping a close eye on Ottawa D Sergei Gonchar. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said he’s talked with Jordan Leopold, who played with Gonchar in Pittsburgh last season. “He’s one of those guys who has experience and he’s very good,” said Ruff. “We know what he brings. We’re going to try to defend it the best we can.” ... Captain Daniel Alfredsson doesn’t mind playing on a line with C Mike Fisher and LW Nick Foligno. “I played with both of them last year and I thought we had some good games,” said Alfredsson.

INJURIES

Senators: Kuba, C Jason Spezza (groin) day-to-day. Sabres: No injuries.


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