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Senators aim to silence doubters

Experts giving Penguins huge edge in first-round playoff series

Tuesday, 04.8.2008 / 2:25 PM ET / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
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Senators aim to silence doubters
One by one, they’ve weighed in, almost unanimous in dismissing the Ottawa Senators’ chances against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The experts’ predictions were music to Martin Lapointe’s ears.

“That’s fine with me. I like to be the underdog. It’s a great feeling,” said the veteran Senators forward, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings. “If we have character, we should use that and go from there.

“It’s a challenge for me. Let’s see what’s going to happen in the first round (of the playoffs). That’s all I have to say. Hockey is a game that’s played on the ice. You can say all you want. It’s easy to sit behind a desk and (make) all the predictions you want. But I think it’s great. I love it. I get fired up.”

The Senators enter the playoffs seeded seventh in the Eastern Conference, without three of their top forwards (Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly, all sidelined by injuries) and with a spotty record down the stretch. Meanwhile, many are predicting big things for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins, the conference’s No. 2 seed.

“Listening to all the commentators, there’s no doubt that they are expected to probably go to the conference final at least,” Senators head coach/Bryan Murray said before the team headed to Pittsburgh for Wednesday’s series opener at Mellon Arena (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). “Now they have to do it. That’s the pressure we felt a couple of years ago when we started off. We won the first series and didn’t go beyond that. You leave very disappointed after (losing) a series and for the summer, you wonder what went wrong.”

But despite their very clear underdog status, don’t think for the moment the Senators aren’t feeling a certain level of pressure themselves. This is a team that went to the Stanley Cup final just a year ago and entered this season wanting to finish that job.

“There’s always pressure on you,” said Senators centre Jason Spezza. “For us, it’s still do or die. It doesn’t matter where you finish in the standings and what people’s expectations of you are. Our expectation is that we don’t want our season to end.”

Murray agreed, saying that’s the true test the playoffs bring to every team.

“There’s no question there’s pressure,” he said. “At playoff time, it doesn’t matter if you’re the top team or the eighth team, there’s pressure to do well. Nobody wants to not do well. Nobody wants to be embarrassed. Everybody wants to win.”

And clearly, the Senators are in this series to win it.

“We still feel we’re a very good team and if we play our game and stick to our plan, we should have a very good chance,” said forward Dany Heatley. “I think we kind of like (being the underdog). We know the city of Ottawa is behind us. We believe in each other and that’s the bottom line.”

Added defenceman Chris Phillips: “I think we’re a confident group… We have an opportunity to go out and prove a lot of people wrong.”

Stillman feeling stronger for playoff drive

Forward Cory Stillman, who missed two games late in the season because of bruised leg, feels he’s regaining his strength just in time for the post-season. “It’s feeling better,” he said after practice today. “Everyone has injuries and some are worse than others, but a couple of days off helped quite a bit on Saturday and Sunday.” Murray liked the improvement he saw today out of Stillman, a two-time Stanley Cup champion. “He’s been really hurting. He’s been playing, I think, certainly half speed at very best,” said Murray. “Today was the first day that I saw him that he really looked like he was getting his legs under him again.”




1 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
2 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
3 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
4 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
5 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
6 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
7 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
8 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


E. Karlsson 82 21 45 7 66
M. Stone 80 26 38 21 64
K. Turris 82 24 40 5 64
B. Ryan 78 18 36 5 54
M. Hoffman 79 27 21 16 48
M. Zibanejad 80 20 26 0 46
C. MacArthur 62 16 20 -6 36
M. Michalek 66 13 21 3 34
D. Legwand 80 9 18 1 27
A. Chiasson 76 11 15 -5 26
C. Anderson 14 13 8 .923 2.49
R. Lehner 9 12 3 .905 3.02