An ACC in O-Town?

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:17 PM ET

 A 20-kilometre drive to the west of downtown Ottawa brings you to the home of the NHL Senators, an arena that stands majestically where the sprawling suburb of Kanata meets the lush farmlands of the Ottawa Valley.

 Welcome to Air Canada Centre East.

  While Ottawa mayor Bob Chiarelli and many of his political cohorts in Bytown must shudder in disgust at the mere suggestion that the rink that houses their beloved Sens would be called such a name, even those high-powered suits cannot ignore the impressive post-season numbers the Maple Leafs have posted in that building over the years.

 The Sens have won just three of eight previous playoff meetings against the Leafs at the Corel Centre, including a 1-5 mark in the past six.

 By winning Game 1 of their 2004 Eastern Conference quarter-final by a 4-2 score over the Leafs, the Sens regained home ice advantage in the series. But is it one, really?

 History says no. The Sens say yes.

 "I think you battle for home ice all season long for a reason," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who looks forward to the series shifting to Ottawa for Game 3 tomorrow night.

 "All the top teams, with maybe the exception of Boston, had very good home records this season.

 "Once the regular season is over, I think it is more difficult to win on the road."

 Alfredsson claims he does not notice the Leafs fans in the Corel Centre booing him whenever he touches the puck, a tradition that started at the Air Canada Centre earlier this season.

 "I never really heard it in either rink," he said. "I'm too busy focussing on the game."

 But his Ottawa teammates certainly are aware of the legions of Leafs fans who clog the Corel Centre, a disturbing trend which caused Chiarelli and co. to ban Toronto jerseys from the game April 2.

 Those who did wear their Leafs colours were asked to donate to the Ottawa food bank, which admirably ended up receiving significant funds as part of the much-publicized charity campaign.

 "Whenever we play the Leafs there, we joke about having to take the crowd out of the game," Sens defenceman Wade Redden said. "We accept it now because we've seen it so many times. Seriously though, we love playing at home. Our fans are great, and it gives us the advantage of having the last change."


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