Pressure on Senators?

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- The Senators aren't buying any of Brian Burke's mind games.

The Anaheim Ducks GM said his team is the underdog ... and he says he doesn't mind that with Game 1 of the series tonight at the Honda Center.

"A lot of the Canadian media are going to pick the Canadian team,' said Burke. "We have more Canadians on our team than Ottawa does. That's fine.

"We're content to be the underdog in this. It's clear to us that we are and we like our team. We're proud of this group and we're happy to be here."

The Senators don't see it Burke's way.

"I don't think either team is really a clear-cut favourite," said Senators defenceman Wade Redden. "I certainly don't look at it that way. It's going to be a tough challenge. The team that plays its game and plays its best is going to be the team that wins. That's what we're concerned about and that's what we're focusing on."

The Senators are carrying the hopes of a nation -- with the exception of plenty of Toronto Maple Leaf fans --that wants the Cup to return to Canada for the first time since 1993.

"Hockey is not a sport in Canada. Everyone knows that. It's a religion. It's not going to change," said Burke, the former president/GM of the Canucks. "The coverage we get, while it's excellent, is obscure, camouflaged and often lost.

"It's different in Canada. First off, there's not a plethora of other teams to cover and there's that cult following of the game of hockey.

"Does it put more pressure on Ottawa? I don't know. In general for the Canadian teams, the pressure that's placed on by the fans and media is a helpful factor. It makes your team manage and perform."

UNDER PRESSURE

If the Senators are supposed to be under pressure, they didn't look like it during a light 45-minute workout yesterday.

The players were loose and having fun because after nine days of waiting to start, they're finally going to play.

There was plenty of excitement after they won the Eastern Conference title May 20 in Buffalo, but there's been idle time preparing for an opponent they will face for the first time this season.

"I'm sure we'll be nervous (tonight)," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "But, we've been loose all year and I think as a group we're ready."

The Senators know this will be a tough challenge. The Ducks are going to try to punish Ottawa physically.

"We know we have to respect every team we play. The league is close at this point in time," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "We understand Anaheim is more than a good team. We know, to begin with, the audience and the fans will be into it big time.

"There will be lots of emotion in the building and we know we have to play well early. But the good thing about our team is we've been able to do that. We'll have another test (tonight)."


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