Now listen up, boys

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

They were pointing to it as an ace in the hole immediately after the loss that left them trailing this championship set by two.

Things would be different in Game 3, the Senators said. They were going home. They would get last line change. And, more importantly, they would be lifted to greater heights by their fans.

The nation's capital is about to host its first Stanley Cup final tonight at The Bank. Essentially, it is a do-or-die game for the Senators.

The rest of Canada will be watching, cheering from their homes. It will be up to those in attendance to relay the message.

They will do it louder and clearer than ever.

"The support in this community is phenomenal," Jason Spezza said yesterday. "We can't speak enough about the way people have rallied behind us."

Their most recent example came Thursday evening when about 500 of them showed up at the airport to greet the team upon its arrival from Anaheim. A mid-series welcome home like that is pretty impressive.

"It's huge," Mike Fisher said. "Knowing the fans are behind us, that they believe in us ... that goes a long way. We really appreciate that. They're not giving up by any means, and neither are we.

"It was pretty neat to see a crowd like that come to the airport when we were feeling a little discouraged.

"We're going to turn this thing around."

They are counting on your help.

PERSONALLY SPEAKING

The worst thing about the Stanley Cup final? It only lasts a week or two. They should change it to a best-of-47. Take us right through August. Over indulging sports writers could split their September between a fat farm and a detox centre, then be ready and in fine form for the start of the next season. The NHL is treating us so well, you'd almost think they were trying to kill us off. From a Brookstreet breakfast to smoked-meat sandwich lunches at the rink to dinner and receptions back at the hotel ... they even feed you quotes if you're too lazy to get them yourself. Gives a guy some extra time after a long day of work to relax over a beer with some buddies.

LOST IDENTITY

At his press conference yesterday, Bryan Murray was asked if Mike Connelly is giving the Senators the type of play they want from him. "No he's not. There's a number of players that aren't. Mike Comrie isn't the only one." Comrie, a goal scorer by trade, has two in the playoffs and none in the last 14 games. He denies he's gripping the stick too tight, however. "A half an inch," Comrie said of chances he had in Game 2's botched 5-on-3, "and three of those shots would have went in." You know what they say about the Stanley Cup finals -- it's a game of half inches.

THIS AND THAT

Funny how quickly the tide can turn. Daniel Alfredsson has gone to the Invisible Man from Con Smythe trophy favourite in two games. "Throughout the playoffs I've said it's very important to stay even keel no matter if they kick you in the ass or if they give you all the accolades they can give you," he shrugged. "I don't pay attention to it during the playoffs. You sit back after the season and evaluate the way you play, if you're happy or not. But right now, I'm not focused on what people say good or bad about me. I'm just going to try and go out there and play to the best of my capabilities." ... Chris Pronger, a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder with skinny little legs and size 7 feet, knows all about the position in which the Senators now stand. Last year, he and the Edmonton Oilers lost the first two games of the final against Carolina before bouncing back and taking the series to the limit. Yesterday, Pronger was asked to explain the one's mindset of coming back in a series when things don't look so good. "Why should I?," he said, generating a round of laughter ... Corey Perry's uncle Gord and his cousins live in Ottawa and are Senators season ticket holders. Do they cheer for the Senators? "More or less," said Corey. "They like to see them do well, except when it's against us." ... Almonte native Kent Huskins was asked if he was having trouble staying focused playing in the Cup finals in his own backyard. "It's kind of what you work for your whole life," said the Ducks' defenceman. "So once you're here, that's all the motivation you need to stay focused." ... The Senators didn't have an overly long team meeting yesterday, despite what you might read elsewhere. It only seemed that way because it was the first time such a large crowd was waiting for them to get out.

THEY SAID IT

The Minnesota Star Tribune's Mike Russo had to do some unscheduled boxers shopping when his luggage didn't have the same success as he did in making the trip to Ottawa from Anaheim. "We have underwear in Canada," C.J. Stevenson told him. "And it's not all long." ... At Thursday's United Way Community Achievement Awards, CJOH newscaster Max Keeping pointed out that the Stanley Cup was recently taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan. "It means the Taliban had a greater chance of capturing the Cup this year than the Toronto Maple Leafs."


Videos

Photos