Millen's return makes good Sens

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Funny how that old axiom is true. That sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Consider the last time Greg Millen worked as a Hockey Night in Canada analyst for a Senators playoff game:

- Goaltender Dominik Hasek was sidelined by a mysterious injury during a first-round series;

- GM John Muckler presided over the favoured team.

Sound familiar, Sens fans?

Except we're talking about 1997, the year the Senators first made it to the big dance. And both Hasek and Muckler were on the other side, with the Buffalo Sabres team that would go on to eliminate Ottawa in seven games.

Nine seasons have passed since then and Millen -- the analyst on Senators local telecasts until moving over to Leafs TV this season -- has worked dozens of Ottawa games from the press box perch at Scotiabank Place.

But when playoff time arrived, it was generally westward ho for Millen, or perhaps a trip east to Montreal. But nary a Sens post-season game crossed his way.

Until now, that is.

Starting tonight, you'll hear Millen's familiar voice alongside Bob Cole for the Senators-Tampa Bay Lightning series. It's like a homecoming of sorts for the former NHL goaltender.

"Let's be honest," Millen told the Sun from his Peterborough home. "I'm excited to cover the team I used to cover regularly. Why wouldn't I be?"

Though Leafs TV took him away from Ottawa -- "a very hard, difficult decision for me," he still says -- Millen never stopped keeping track of the team that gave him his start in the broadcast business.

"A part of me watched how the Sens did," he said. "I wished them well throughout year ... I was treated tremendously well by (team president) Roy Mlakar and people there."

Millen will be at Scotiabank Place tonight partly because CBC decided to split up its signature Hockey Night duo. Harry Neale, who normally works alongside Cole, is off to Montreal to work the Canadiens-Carolina Hurricanes series with Jim Hughson.

It's something HNIC does every year, but usually not until later in the playoffs (read: After the Leafs are eliminated). Mark Lee and John Garrett will work the Edmonton-Detroit series, while it's Don Wittman and HNIC newcomer Andy Murray on Calgary-Anaheim.

PUCK DROPPINGS: TSN's Pierre McGuire on two Eastern Conference series of note: "I don't think Tampa Bay can beat Ottawa and I don't think Montreal can beat Carolina." ... Rogers Sportsnet's Gord Stellick picks the Sens to claim the Stanley Cup, with Daniel Alfredsson winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

THE WIDE VIEW: Here's a treat for capital region widescreen TV owners. CBC plans to broadcast all Senators home games in the opening round in high-definition format. "We'll be moving the (HD) mobile between Ottawa and Montreal for the first round," said HNIC executive producer Joel Darling. For the first time, CBC will broadcast the Stanley Cup final in HD. Expect a similar wide view for some of TSN's broadcasts.

SURVEY SAYS ...: The final figures are in and -- surprise, surprise -- the NHL's return from a season of lockout-induced slumber was a hit with Canadian viewers. Hockey Night in Canada recorded increases for both ends of its Saturday doubleheader. The early game average (1.393 million) was up 8% over 2003-04, while the Western-focused nightcap gained 17% to 942,000. Over on TSN, the picture was even brighter. Its full-season average (476,000) was a whopping 48% higher than '03-04, the last full NHL season. The total included six of TSN's 10 highest-rated NHL broadcasts ever, including No. 1 -- the 2.105 million who tuned in to the Oct. 5 season-opener between the Sens and Leafs.

AROUND THE DIAL: TSN's playoff plan is highlighted by full coverage of the Buffalo-Philadelphia series. You'll also see five games from two other series (Dallas-Colorado, Nashville-San Jose), plus three New Jersey-Rangers games. Included are six doubleheaders and an April 20 tripleheader ... XM and Sirius satellite radio will both offer broadcasts of every playoff game.


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