SPORTS

Surging Senators prepare for emotional game against provincial rival Leafs

10/21/2014 04:31 EDT | Updated 12/21/2014 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators know they have to keep their emotions in check when the rival Toronto Maple Leafs come to Canadian Tire Centre.

The Leafs have dominated the Senators for much of the past two years, winning seven straight games until Ottawa shutout Toronto 1-0 in the second-last game of the season last year.

This season the Senators (4-1-0) are off to an impressive start and have a chance to win a fifth straight game when they host Toronto on Wednesday.

While the provincial rivals have an antagonistic history, Senators coach Paul MacLean said his players need to remember to not get caught up in the hype.

"We just have to make sure we're prepared and we're not over doing it," said MacLean. "We just have to be ready to play."

MacLean doesn't like to focus too much on who the Senators are playing, believing that each and every game should be considered as important as the last.

"Every game is the biggest game of the year, the one you're playing. Other games take a different significance, but every game is important to us and we can't look past one opponent for another one. We have to be ready to play our game consistently."

Clarke MacArthur, a former member of the Leafs, said it will be important for the Senators to play smart.

"You want to keep your emotions in check," MacArthur said. "We gave these guys a lot of opportunities to get back in games against us with power plays. They have a great power play. If we can play them five-on-five I like our chances, with any team five-on-five. It's when you have to kill off eight or nine penalties it's going to be a tough night."

Last season the Leafs went 17-for-21 with the man advantage through four games against the Senators. Considering all but one were one-goal games, the Senators know how crucial special teams will be.

After five games this season the Senators have allowed just three power play goals in 17 opportunities.

"We made a lot of mistakes last year," said Ottawa centre Zack Smith. "I feel like as a team we weren't as structured, we'd break down and you couldn't get any traction after that. I think we're a different team now. We're more comfortable and solid and everyone seems more sure of what their role is."

A strong start will be key for the Senators, as they will want to take the inevitable vocal contingent of Leaf fans out of the game.

"These are always exciting games because the building is so loud," Smith said. "It's a lot of fun to play, but you can't be taken aback by the noise levels."

Despite their strong start, the Senators are still giving an average of 35.6 shots per game to rank 27th in the league. Goaltenders Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, who have shared the workload to this point in the season, have been solid.

MacLean refrained from naming his starting goaltender for Wednesday's game, but said he would be comfortable putting either one in the lineup.

"Both have played well for us and it's what our team needs," said MacLean. "We're trying to make sure to give both of them every opportunity to continue to play and get into some action."

Jared Cowen, Colin Greening and Erik Condra appear to be healthy scratches given the lines in practice, but MacLean said evaluations were ongoing and a final determination would be made Wednesday morning.

"We want to try and keep everybody involved and everybody playing until we make a final determination of what's our best roster and that's the one we're going to go with," said MacLean. "We haven't gotten to that point yet. We'd like to make sure that nobody stays out too, too long, but at the same time we want to make sure we're playing the best players."

Notes: D Marc Methot continues to make some progress in his attempt to return to the lineup from a back injury. Methot has not played a game this season. The Senators will be hosting their seventh annual Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night in support of prostate cancer research and awareness at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday.

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