Senators walking tall

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET


 TORONTO -- There's a new player in the Senators' dressing room as they prepare to face the Leafs: His name is Confidence.

 The Senators don't give a hoot about their troubled past. They're not worried about all the questions they're going to face following today's morning skate about the fact they've lost three straight playoff series against the Leafs.

 Instead, the Senators are focused on the 2004 matchup that lies ahead in this provincial punch-up and they're convinced that if everybody in the dressing room is on board to beat the Leafs, then Ottawa has a good chance.

 "We're not lacking confidence at all," Senators GM John Muckler said yesterday. "I'm confident ... everybody in the organization is confident. We're not talking about what's happened in the past and people can ask about it if they want.

 "That's fine, but we don't have to pay any attention to it. All we're focused on is what's going to happen in this series and that's the approach we've got to take. We're prepared and this should be a good series for everybody involved."

 The Senators have faced an army of questions about the fact they've never beaten the Leafs. Of course, those came from mostly Ottawa-based media. Today there will be in even more from the Hogtown types.

 But this is a different Senators team. Thirteen players have never been through the Battle of Ontario. They've heard about the history involved, but they've never witnessed it firsthand. Could ignorance be bliss?

 "We know that we're going into hostile territory and what we've got to do, if we're going to win this series, is win at least one game there. We know that's going to be a tough task," said Senators centre Bryan Smolinski.

 NEW FOR SMOLINSKI

 "This is all new to me. I've never been though this before. I've seen a bit of the rivalry in the regular season and this is going to be different because it's going to be stepped up a bit more. Everybody has to be ready to elevate their games."

 That's been the difference in the past: Toronto has elevated its post-season game; played with heart, guts and more determination.

 Ottawa has players who can play that way, but the team has been inconsistent this season. The Senators know if they have four lines contributing and play well defensively, there's a pretty good chance they'll win against the Leafs.

 "Everybody has to play to the best of their abilities," said Muckler. "You know when you get into the playoffs that you have to be prepared to play your best and you have to challenge yourself to take your game to another level.

 "We know this is a tough series. We've got two teams with more than 100 points playing each other and that makes it a tough challenge. But we're prepared for that challenge and this should bring the best out of us."

 What does it take to win?

 "When teams are this evenly matched what you have to do out there is find an edge. It might not be something big, but it might be an edge that is going to help you win the series and make the difference," said Muckler.

 "We've got to do little things: Like using our speed, finishing our checks and make sure we block shots."

 The Senators arrived in Toronto last night ready for a series they know is going to be difficult, but the players are excited about facing their arch-rivals.

 NEIL FIRED UP

 "We're ready to go," said Senators winger Chris Neil. "We've done enough talking and we want to get this series started. This is a big challenge for us and we know it's going to be tough, but we feel confident we can win. Don't worry, we'll prevail."


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