VANCOUVER — Pretenders or contenders?
The Senators will get an idea where they stand when they face the Vancouver Canucks Sunday at GM Place.
With a win, Ottawa would sweep a three-game Western Canada road swing for the first time in team history.
“They’re an elite team and we’ve had some struggles against elite teams,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean.
“Against the other teams in the league that are closer to us, we’ve played pretty well. This is an opportunity for us to measure ourselves against the Stanley Cup finalists from last year and see where we are.
“The last time we played the Stanley Cup champions (a 5-3 loss to the Bruins on Nov. 1) it didn’t go very (well), so this is going to be another test for us. I think we’re going to be ready for it because they’re a good team.”
Ottawa has a 3-3-1 record against teams above them in the standings. The three victories have come vs. Minnesota, Florida and the Rangers, while they’ve suffered two losses to Buffalo and one each to Philly and Washington.
The Canucks haven’t hit full stride this season — with a .500 record at 9-9-1, but they’re better than the record indicates.
Not only do the Senators have to find a way to shut down Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the Canucks have the NHL’s No. 1-ranked power play. Cory Schneider is a more-than- capable backup goalie and he’ll make the start with Roberto Luongo injured.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for them and their abilities to play the game,” said MacLean. “We know that we’re going to have our hands full.”
With victories in Toronto (5-2) Saturday, Calgary (3-1) Tuesday and Edmonton (5-2) Thursday, this has already been a good trip. They have the opportunity to make it a great one if they can find a way to get a victory here.
“It would mean a lot (to win),” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “We’ve done a great job here and we want to keep it going. This will be a tough test because we know they’re a good team.”
The Canucks are 7-1-0 in their last eight games against the Senators and Ottawa hasn’t won here since the lockout ended in 2004. The last win in Vancouver was March 13, 2004, with Martin Prusek in net.
“This game will tell us a lot,” said Senators GM Bryan Murray. “This (trip) has been satisfying for us so far. We’re starting to show what we have.
“If you look at some of these trips during the year and you say, ‘Oh boy, this could be tough.’ To have won three (straight) games so far really is a positive.”