Hockey

Leafs, Senators resume battle

Mats Sundin and the Toronto Maple Leafs will try to gain a split in their home-and-home series with Ottawa Thursday night, while the Calgary Flames usher in a new NHL season in Edmonton.

It's going to take more than a new coach and new faces for the Maple Leafs' fortunes to change in the Battle of Ontario.

That became crystal clear Wednesday night in Toronto's 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators in what was the first regular-season game for both teams.

Like last year, missed scoring opportunities, an inept power play and poor defensive coverage contributed to the Leafs' eighth loss in their last nine meetings against Ottawa.

The Northeast Division rivals will complete the back leg of a home-and-home series Thursday night in Ottawa (CBC, 7 p.m. ET).

Calgary visits the Edmonton Oilers in the second half of the Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader at 10 p.m. ET.

"I think the best thing for us is to get right back out there and play them again," first-year Leafs coach Paul Maurice told reporters after Wednesday's game. "I thought we did some good things out there."

Toronto, which scored only 21 goals in eight exhibition games, had three chances to beat Senators goalie Martin Gerber in the opening minutes but came away empty.

Leafs captain Mats Sundin was the only player to solve the Swiss netminder, shooting the puck through Gerber's legs on a penalty shot in the second period.

Patrick Eaves, Chris Neil, Christoph Schubert beat Andrew Raycroft in his Leafs debut, while Daniel Alfredsson added an empty-net goal.

Neil put Ottawa ahead 2-0 midway through the second period when he raced by six-foot-seven 250-pound defenceman Hal Gill.

Toronto's top defensive pair of Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe also had a tough night, with each posting a minus-2 rating, while the power play went 0-for-6.

Raycroft, who beat Ottawa four times in nine outings as a Boston Bruin, is hopeful of getting another chance at the Senators on Thursday.

But Maurice could call on Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who picked up the Leafs' lone victory versus Ottawa last season with a 30-save performance on April 15, 2006.

Defenceman Pavel Kubina will return to the Toronto lineup after serving a one-game suspension for cross-checking Detroit's Jiri Huddler on the chin in the pre-season finale Sunday.

Senators rearguard Tom Preissing won't play after sustaining a lower-body injury in the second period on Wednesday.

Tanguay set for Flames debut

Alex Tanguay is no stranger to heated rivalries, having watched the Quebec Nordiques and Montreal Canadiens tangle on many occasions as a youngster.

For the past six years, he was a key figure in the Detroit-Colorado wars as a member of the Avalanche.

And during that time, the Calgary Flames left-winger and centre witnessed — from afar — the team's memorable tilts against the Edmonton Oilers.

"I would imagine this is similar to Quebec and Montreal," Tanguay told reporters Wednesday as he prepared for his first taste of the Battle of Alberta. "People in the city get overly excited. If you're a Montreal fan and they lose the game, the next day you won't talk to a Nordiques fan, and stuff like that.

"Playing with Colorado eight times against Edmonton, against Minnesota, against Vancouver, there'll be lots of rivalries in the division. I'm quite ready for it."

So are the Oilers, including No. 1 centre Shawn Horcoff, who prefers to open a new season against longtime rivals.

"We think it's great. It's a great test for us," said Horcoff, who set career highs in goals (22), assists (51) and points (73) a year ago.

Prior to the opening faceoff, the Oilers will have their Western Conference championship banner raised to the rafters at Rexall Place.

And then coach Craig MacTavish will ice a 23-man roster that includes five rookies but won't feature four integral members of last year's squad: Chris Pronger, Mike Peca, Jaroslav Spacek and Sergei Samsonov.

Former Anaheim Ducks Joffrey Lupul and blue-line prospect Ladislav Smid, who were acquired in the Pronger trade during the off-season, will make their Edmonton debuts, as will one-time New York Ranger Petr Sykora.

Calgary will have mostly the same lineup that captured the Northwest Division with a record of 46-25-11, with forward Jeff Friesen, defenceman Andrei Zyuzin and goalie Jamie McLennan the other newcomers.

Tanguay is the most talked about addition and should provide captain Jarome Iginla with plenty of scoring chances and bolster a power play that finished 12th in the 30-team NHL last season. Tanguay collected four points in five pre-season games.

Iginla, who shed 10 pounds over the summer, struggled with a bevy of centres last season and finished with 35 goals, far off his 52-goal explosion in 2001-02.

Flames centre Stephane Yelle practised Wednesday and should be in the lineup, despite suffering a leg injury Friday in Vancouver.

The rematch is set for Saturday in Calgary (CBC, 10 p.m. ET).

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