OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators are looking forward to Sunday's Heritage Classic against the Vancouver Canucks, but know their focus has to be on picking up two points rather than the novelty of playing outdoors.
After dropping a 6-1 loss to Detroit on Thursday night, the Senators now sit five points back of the Red Wings for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Sunday's game at BC Place will be the first in a four-game Western Canada road trip for the Senators and could have a significant impact on their playoff aspirations.
"We're going to have fun with everything leading up to the game and playing the game, but at the same time we're professionals," centre Zack Smith said. "We need the two points. We know how important it is. It will be different, but we'll be ready."
The Heritage Classic will be the Senators first experience with a stadium game and players say they want to enjoy the atmosphere and revel in the excitement of playing in this kind of environment.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," said forward Mika Zibanejad. "I've seen a lot of these games on television and even played them on video games so it's going to be fun to be part of one."
Smith, a native of Maple Creek, Sask., has a number of friends and family attending the game.
"I played outdoors in the AHL and it was awesome," Smith said. "It was different, a lot of fun and it's still competitive because there's two points on the line."
Senators coach Paul MacLean believes the excitement of the Heritage Classic could be exactly what the team needs after the deflating loss to the Red Wings.
"I think we should be looking forward to the opportunity that we have in Vancouver and the Heritage game," said MacLean. "I think it's going to be a good stage for us to be on and I think it's a good thing for us. I think it's exactly what we need. It's something, a big event like this to really get us focused and get us ready to play."
Like the Senators, the Canucks are on the outside of the playoff picture and two points on Sunday would be instrumental in their push for a playoff spot.
The Senators anticipate both teams will enjoy Saturday's practice and will take time to soak in the atmosphere, but once the puck drops Sunday it will be business as usual.
As a native of New Westminster, B.C., forward Kyle Turris has been looking forward to this game since it was announced. Turris will have close to 40 friends and family on hand for the game and says he wants to make the most of the experience.
Turris has been in the stadium to watch the CFL's B.C. Lions and says he even had the opportunity to play football as a teenager in the stadium, but says this will be unlike any other game.
"I'm really excited," said Turris. "It's going to be fun. It's going to be great. I think it will be a great experience. It will be a different atmosphere, but I think it will be fun."
Like his teammates Turris knows the focus has to be on playing the best game possible, but doesn't believe that has to come at the expense of enjoying the opportunity.
"You want to take in the experience and how neat it is and learn from it for the future," said Turris. "At the same time you want to realize it's an important game and one that goes towards the standings. It's one we need to win."
Notes: G Craig Anderson was back on the ice Friday after missing most of the week to witness the birth of his second son, Levi Bentley Anderson. "It was a really good experience and good to be there, but I'm anxious to get back in the net."…The Senators could make a lineup change for Sunday's game if Friday's defence pairings were any indication. Patrick Wiercioch could make his way back into the lineup, while Jared Cowen might find himself watching from the sidelines…G Andrew Hammond was sent back down to the AHL's Binghamton Senators Friday.
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