Sens can't wait for shot at Sabres

STEVEN SANDOR -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

No doubt about it: the Senators have been itching to play the Buffalo Sabres.

After being eliminated from the playoffs last season by the Sabres -- and a wild eight-game regular-season rivalry which saw both camps accuse the others of dirty hits, the Sens still didn't feel like they were done with Buffalo.

Coach Bryan Murray admitted yesterday that his players have been wanting the Sabres all playoffs long, and they'll get that wish when the Eastern Conference Final faces off later this week in Buffalo.

"We played them eight times again this year, there's been a lot of contact beteween the organizations," said Murray. "I think it's terrific."

Of course, more fans will remember Sens goalie Ray Emery fighting Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters or Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff crying foul that star forward Chris Drury had been concussed by a cheap shot from Chris Neil than any great goals from this season's previous tilts between the two clubs.

But, the Sens know that the Sabres present problems like no other team they've faced in the playoffs.

The Sabres are the NHL's highest scoring team, but don't depend on one line to get the lion's share of the goals. On any given night, Drury, Daniel Briere, Thomas Vanek or Maxim Afinogenov can burn you.

"They have three lines that are very creative, very offensive minded," said Murray. "We have to play defence first, no matter who we play."

And that means Murray will have to react to Ruff, who has no qualm about shuffling lines and sitting his star players on the bench if they aren't producing.

Murray will go into Game 1 with a plan on how to use his shut-down defensive pair of Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips, but admitted how they will be used as the series goes on will depend on how Ruff shuffles his lineup.

But it's hard to say that the Sens are out for revenge, simply because so many changes have been made to Ottawa's lineup since last year's playoff ouster.

"This is a very different hockey team last year," said Murray.

That's right. This is easily a much better Senators team than last season. But the Sabres are also better over 2005-06, too.

It should be a lot of fun. 


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