GM: 'I like our odds'

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 PM ET

It may not be do-or-die yet, but tonight's game against the Anaheim Ducks sure is huge for the Senators.

"There are no more excuses," said Senators GM John Muckler yesterday. "This is the key to the series, one way or another."

Trailing 2-0 in the Stanley Cup final against the Ducks, the Senators return to what should be a raucous Scotiabank Place tonight for Game 3.

There will be plenty of hype and hoopla -- it is the first Stanley Cup final being played in Ottawa in the Senators' modern history.

But the Senators can't worry about that -- they just have to focus on winning.

Muckler, who has five Stanley Cup rings from his days with the Edmonton Oilers, knows what it takes to be a winner. At least he should.

"We just have to be prepared to play our game," said Muckler. "Mental toughness is going to be a part of the game. We're both good teams. Right now, Anaheim is the better team and we just have to come up another notch.

"That's how champions are built. If you can beat your opponent when they're playing their best hockey and raise your game to be able to do that, you're going to be the champion. That's what we have to do."

Through the first two games of the series, the Senators haven't looked like the team that steamrolled over the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils and the Buffalo Sabres to win the Eastern Conference title.

Yes, some of that has to do with the way the Ducks have played, but Muckler would like to see his team compete harder and play smarter.

"We haven't skated the way we can skate in this series and that has to happen in Game 3," said Muckler. "If we can win Game 3, that's going to make it a different series and it's going to change everything completely.

"A win would give everybody a different psyche completely and then the momentum would be in our court with Game 4 in our building. Then, whoever wins that one will probably take control of the series."

Muckler said the Senators need a hero to step up and it doesn't necessarily have to be captain Daniel Alfredsson, centre Jason Spezza or winger Dany Heatley, who have been the lightning rods for the criticism.

"Somebody has to take control," said Muckler. "You have to have good leadership and I feel we have good leadership, but somebody has to take control of the team and lead the team on the ice.

"I can remember being in Chicago in 1990 (with the Oilers), down 2-1 going into Game 4 and Mark Messier scored three goals in that game and we went on to win in Game 6. That has to happen (tonight). Somebody has to have the best game of his life. Hopefully they all have the best games of their lives, but personally I feel we have to have one person who can lead this team on the ice."

Muckler said nobody has given up hope and being home will help.

"I don't think we feel that we're out of the series. We feel that we have a good chance. The way I look at it, we have five games left to play and three will be played in this building. I like our odds," said Muckler.

"The fans are going to be a big advantage for us. There are going to be thousands of people in here cheering for us and they've done a tremendous job up to this point. The players appreciate what they've done and they feed off it."


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