Bell set for Sens

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

In the next 36 days, the Maple Leafs should know what makes Ottawa tick as well as the sprockets inside the Peace Tower clock.

The Leafs play the Senators seven times between tonight and Oct. 26 -- three exhibition and four regular season -- including a home-and-home opening series.

If you missed last year's installment of the Battle of Ontario, the Sens thoroughly dominated 7-1, including four games with at least five goals against the Leafs.

Those lost points underlined the Leafs' difficulties in winning games in their own division and eventually scuttled playoff hopes.

The most excited Leaf tonight will no doubt be defenceman Brendan Bell, returning to his hometown in an NHL sweater for the first time, trying to earn a job and do his part to re-kindle the rivalry.

"It will be important for this team tomorrow night to kick the season off right against those guys," Bell said. "It's a fun rivalry and I hope to get fully immersed in it this year.

"I've got a fresh (playing) perspective on it, but living in Toronto, I know all about it and I get a lot of heat for it back home."

Bell will have the customary ticket request conundrum tonight at Scotia Place.

"I've had a few phone calls from people I haven't heard from in awhile, but I'm letting my family (parents Les and Sheila in Mooney's Bay) take care of that. I grew up watching the Sens and there will be a few people in the stands I know."

Bell is a player the Leafs hope can beat Ottawa at its own game, rapid puck movement. Bell sprung Alex Suglobov in Sunday's Blue and White Game with a perfect breakaway pass.

With the Marlies last year, Bell had 43 points in 70 games.

"I like to make that kind of pass and I'd hoped for a long time that the NHL would take out the red line," Bell said. "That's one of my favourite parts of the game. My game is very well-accustomed to the new NHL and I hope I can take advantage of it."

After the first group of Leaf veterans and rookies were blanked 4-0 by the Buffalo Sabres, the next 20 get their shot tonight.

Mike Peca will make his debut, likely on a line with Jeff O'Neill and Chad Kilger. The latter also is looking at tonight with more than passing interest.

"I ended up finishing the summer skating in Ottawa with a few of the Senators and they joked they'd be seeing a lot of us," Kilger said.

"Things will heat up in the next few days (the Leafs meet the Sens again in Halifax on Sunday) and it's definitely a rivalry, particularly those guys who've been here three or four years. We'd love to win these games, but they're also exhibitions and we're looking to improve, progressing towards Oct. 4."


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