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Will series live up to the hype?

TORONTO -- The Battle of Ontario, Episode IV, is a name-calling, down-and-dirty street fight with insults and threats of lawsuits flying.

And that was before the puck was dropped.

The battle between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators reached new highs and new lows before Game 1 at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday night.

The Ottawa Sun newspaper hired an airplane to buzz the CN Tower trailing a 115-foot banner which read, "Leafs suck-Go Sens Go!" (Look, up in the sky! It's a bird...it's a plane...it's a plane flipping the bird!)

The pilot of the plane, from a Toronto-based company, is now living in fear of Leafs fans.

"Hopefully, time will heal all," said pilot Peter Yoo. "Maybe I'll get out of the country for a while."

Leafs enforcer Tie Domi, meanwhile, is threatening to sue an Ottawa radio host who made a series of comments insinuating Domi beats his wife. Domi, as you might expect, didn't find it funny, though his lawyer no doubt has visions of his platinum seats at the ACC being paid for as a result.

"One would suspect that she could take a good punch," said afternoon host Don "The Dandyman" Romani on the Team 1200, Canada's top-rated all-sports station, of Domi's wife, Leanne. "I'll bet you (Domi's) ideal of aerobics is to bang her around a bit once a week."

Station management said Romani would be reprimanded, but a specific action had not yet been announced. Romani apologized for the comments on-air Wednesday.

The Toronto Sun doctored up a picture of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson to make him look like a clown (it's not much of a stretch when you start with that Crusty-like hairdo), complete with a big, red nose.

Who knows what's going to happen once the games actually start?

But don't get caught up in details. Nobody else is at this point.

Alfredsson, of course, is the favourite target of Leafs fans even though he trails Leafs captain Mats Sundin 1-0 in acts of recklessness that endanger Leafs fans. Alfredsson is hated here for a number of transgressions ranging from
knocking Toronto winger Darcy Tucker out of a playoff game with a hit into the boards a couple of years ago to feigning a broken stick toss into the ACC stands this year.

Sundin had been suspended for a game for throwing his broken stick into the stands.

"I like to be their enemy," enthused Alfredsson to The Sports Network in a sitdown interview after practice in Ottawa Wednesday. "I don't think I've done anything crazy to deserve it ... I'm going in there and try to be a pest. I'm going to get in people's faces. Hopefully we'll shut them up by winning this series."

The upturn in noise in the series is no doubt the product of the four days between the end of the regular season and the start of the fourth postseason meeting between the clubs. Until Wednesday, the lead up to the Battle of Ontario IV had been pretty quiet, especially when it came to outpourings of support for the Senators from their faithful.

Senators fans have been rather muted in their support of their club. There aren't many picking the Senators to beat the Leafs.

"Surprised? No. Disappointed? Certainly," said Senators veteran defenseman Curtis Leshyshyn. "When you have a team like ours that's a successful team, you would hope to have the backing and support of all your fans at home. There are
some people who you can consider doubters at this time.

"We feel we're capable of winning the Stanley Cup. Now we have to go out and
prove it. That's the way to erase all the doubt and concern that surrounds
this team right now."

Senators general manager John Muckler sat up in the stands at the Corel
Centre and watched his club go through its paces in its final practice before
leaving to come here Wednesday afternoon.

"If we want people to start believing in us, we have to go out there and
(win). Right now we're standing by ourselves as far as belief goes," he said.
"It's a seven-game series, is the way I look at it. One team had 103 points, the
other had 102. They are two pretty equal teams. Each is stronger in certain
areas, but equal overall.

"It's going to come down to performance and the willingness to do the things
it takes to win. It's not going to come down to skill level. X's and O's are
out the window. They've been doing X's and O's for 82 games. It's going to come
down to who is willing to block shots. Who is willing to do something out of
the ordinary for his team to win?"

The "out-of-the-ordinary" stuff is already happening off the ice.

Chris Stevenson covers the NHL for the Ottawa Sun and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.