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Downtime forces Ottawa Senators to get creative with simulated game

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Downtime forces Ottawa Senators to get creative with simulated game

The Canadian Press
By:

Among them: a jubilant Chris Phillips talked about enjoying the spoils of victory while right-winger Mike Comrie boasted to reporters about the contribution his line had made to the cause.

The opening game of the Stanley Cup final against the Anaheim Ducks doesn't go until Monday (8 p.m. ET). But when your team's in the middle of an eight-day layoff before beginning the biggest playoff series in franchise history, you'll take whatever taste of winning you can get.

In this case, Team Black's 4-3 defeat of Team White in an intrasquad game at Scotiabank Place was pretty sweet.

"It was a huge win for Team Black," defenceman Phillips joked afterward. "When we hit the road, there might be a meal Team Black won't have to dig too far into their pockets for."

Comrie, in a "checking role" opposite the red-hot No. 1 line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, was in a celebratory mood over his role in the victory.

"We shut the big line down today," he exclaimed, loud enough so reporters gathered around Spezza a couple of stalls over would hear.

After all, it was something Ottawa's opponents haven't been able to achieve so far since the line ranks 1-2-3, respectively, in the playoff scoring race.

"First time all playoffs," Comrie quipped.

The Senators hadn't seen game action since eliminating the Buffalo Sabres in overtime Saturday in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final, which means it will have been nine days by the time the final begins at Anaheim's Honda Center.

The Ducks, who wrapped up the Western Conference with a six-game series win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, are also enjoying a healthy break.

Ottawa coach Bryan Murray tried to break up the routine of regular practice and off-ice workouts and up the competition level in camp by going the route of a simulated game.

"It's a bit more fast-paced than practice usually is," goaltender Ray Emery said. "It kind of gives you a different look on things and keeps the legs going on the boys.

"The best way to practise a game situation is actually having a game. You might get a bit rusty if you have too long of a stretch off, so that's the thinking behind it."

Added Phillips: "It wasn't like an off day. We worked hard, had a good workout and just the game itself - we were passing, shooting, skating and staying sharp and we were able to have some fun with it as well."

While Murray watched from the stands, assistants John Paddock and Greg Carvel ran the teams from the benches. The squads - filled out with spare bodies from the AHL's Binghamton Senators - played two full-time periods, complete with warm-up music, referees and intermission to resurface the ice, although hitting was kept to a minimum.

"We kind of had a little fun with it, but we wanted to get some work out of it as well," Murray said. "For the most part, the guys tried. We suggested they shouldn't be hitting each other and they were very want to do that, but overall I thought it was a good workout for them." The Senators, of course, expect things to be different when the puck does finally drop on the opener, particularly on the physical front.

Despite not having faced the Ducks during the regular season, they're more than aware that Anaheim's a big, tough team that will try to punish them.

While no amount of games could replicate the intensity, Alfredsson didn't think it would take long for the Senators to become acclimated in a hurry.

"You've just got to read the paper in the morning, realize you're in the Stanley Cup final and you're ready for anything," he deadpanned.

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Downtime forces Ottawa Senators to get creative with simulated game