Habs had unlikely booster in Melnyk

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Eugene Melnyk had his fingers crossed for the Montreal Canadiens.

The Senators owner, for the obvious rivalry, had hoped Montreal would find a way to advance to Round 2 of the playoffs.

Melnyk knows you can't choose your opponent, but a part of him was disappointed when Cory Stillman scored in overtime to give Carolina a 2-1 victory, thus clinching the series in six games.

"Did you see that 49-foot slap shot? Can you imagine getting beat that way?" Melnyk asked a couple of writers at yesterday's announcement that the 2009 world junior championship had been awarded to Ottawa.

"As a hockey fan, I just think playing Montreal would have been great with rivalry between the two cities," added Melnyk. "I was in Montreal last Friday for another engagement, and I wasn't there on a game day, but just the excitement in the city was something else. It would have been great to have two Canadian teams facing off against each other."

At the same time, Melnyk thinks facing the Sabres is going to make for an exciting series.

"Buffalo is going to be tough. I don't think there's any question about it. They've got a strong team," said Melnyk. "I've been pleased with the way we've been able to play so far. The big thing for everybody is injuries. If you're able to stay healthy then that can be the key."

Melnyk attended two games during Ottawa's first-round victory over the Lightning, but plans to attend every game in the Sabres series.

Melnyk is going to give up Barbados for Buffalo?

"Are you kidding? I wouldn't miss it for the world," said Melnyk. "I've worked out my whole schedule around this series. I want to be there."

PHILLIPS ON ICE: Senators D Chris Phillips was back practising with the team yesterday and is hopeful he'll be ready for Game 1. Phillips, who suffered a suspected knee injury in Game 4 of the series against the Bolts, took part in the entire practice. "I would say that I'm hopeful," said Phillips. "It feels pretty good. We're going to have to see how it goes (today). I didn't have any problems out there." Coach Bryan Murray was encouraged seeing Phillips on the ice. "I thought he would just go out, skate around a bit, take a few shots and leave," said Murray. "He wanted to stay for the whole practice and he looked pretty good." D Brian Pothier and C Chris Kelly, who both have undisclosed injuries, didn't take part. Kelly skated following practice, while LW Vaclav Varada (upper body) took part in the workout and indicated he'll make a decision today on whether he'll be ready for Game 1. "All those guys are day-to-day and we're just going to have to wait and see if they're ready for (tomorrow)," said Murray.

SCHEDULING ISSUES: Senators GM John Muckler said he likes the schedule for the second-round series. Though playing back-to-back games at the HSBC Arena next Wednesday and Thursday for Games 3 and 4 isn't ideal, scheduling conflicts at the HSBC Arena made it necessary. The HSBC is booked for events next Friday (Tim McGraw and Faith Hill) and Saturday (Buffalo Bandits NLL championship), which is similar to the issue the Senators are facing with Dora the Explorer concerts booked at Scotiabank Place this weekend. "Everybody is going to have to play back-to-back and that's just part of the playoffs," said Muckler.


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