'Dogged and determined

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

The Senators are trying to relish the role as underdogs as the prepare for their battle with Sid the Kid.

Back at practice for the first time since learning their first-round playoff opponent will be the Penguins, the Senators were saying all the right things as the prepare for Game 1 tomorrow at Mellon Arena.

After losing captain Daniel Alfredsson (neck/knee) and centre Mike Fisher (knee) and qualifying for the post-season in Game 82 of the season, the Senators realize most people are writing them off in their showdown with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Few in the community appear to be expecting much from the Senators, if radio shows are to be believed.

That's why coach and GM Bryan Murray doesn't mind if the team gets out of dodge for a few days to play the first two games in Pittsburgh.

"I know going in everybody thinks Pittsburgh will probably beat us fairly easily," Murray said yesterday. "That's the impression I've gotten talking to people.

"I'd like to be the best team, honestly. We have a couple of guys we're going to miss, without a doubt. But, somehow or another, we'll find a way to go shift-to-shift, match up and try to apply some pressure at the right time of the game."

The Senators are buoyed by the fact they had a 3-0-1 record against the Penguins this season. Ottawa's only loss was a 6-5 defeat in a shootout on Nov. 22 at Scotiabank Place.

"No one is a shoo-in at this time of year," said Senators defenceman Wade Redden. "When it gets to the top eight teams, everybody has had to battle and fight to get their way here. Anyone can come out of the East.

"You've see years where the top four seeds get beat out. Obviously, home ice is big for the Penguins, but I don't think any series is a cake walk, but we certainly feel that we've got a good chance to win."

A NEW LOOK

The Senators line combos minus Alfredsson and Fisher started to take shape yesterday at practice. Murray kept C Jason Spezza and LW Dany Heatley together, but moved struggling F Randy Robitaille to the right side. Antoine Vermette, who played centre Friday in a 2-1 loss to the Bruins and scored the only goal, remained in the middle with veteran Ws Cory Stillman and Shean Donovan on the second unit. Will it stay that way? Possibly. Spezza said he knows there's going to be offensive pressure on he and Heatley to produce. "We know we have to step up offensively. We're going to be in charge of the power play for the most part," said Spezza. "We do have to score goals, but we win as a team and lose as a team. We can't put too much pressure on ourselves. If we play well and can dominate when we're on the ice, then everybody else will kind of feed off it." The main focus will be on Crosby and Malkin, but Spezza and Heatley were among the NHL's top scorers this season. "They're part of what we have. They're our weapons," said Murray. "I would imagine they're going to play a particular matchup in the first game to find out if they can do their share. We, in turn, have to do our share to match up and play hard. It's going to be five guys and the goaltender who have to do that. We know in this type of series there are going to be scoring chances. We just have to make sure that we limit them as best as we can."

OFF THE GLASS

Senators G Martin Gerber faced a throng of reporters who wanted to talk about his lack of playoff experience. He has played in only eight NHL playoff games and has 1-1 record with a whopping 13.53 GAA. "The only thing that matters is the final result. That's the bottom line," said Gerber. "You really want to give the team a chance to win." ... Alfredsson was on the ice briefly yesterday before practice, but only to skate to centre for a team picture.


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