Senators close out season in New Jersey
SENATORS (41-30-10) at DEVILS (47-28-6)
TV: CBC, MSG PLUS (HD)
Ottawa 5-5-0; New Jersey 6-3-1
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season. The Devils have won twice, including a 1-0 victory in the last meeting in Ottawa on March 20 when Johan Hedberg made 27 saves. Ilya Kovalchuk scored the only goal 17:20 into the second period.
Both teams were on the outside looking in on the Stanley Cup playoffs last season but have turned things around behind new coaches in 2011-12. The Devils, riding a five-game winning streak, are locked in at sixth in the Eastern Conference. The seventh-seeded Senators, winner of four of their past six games, are just two points ahead of the Washington Capitals, who close out their regular-season against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The Senators dropped a 3-1 decision to the Boston Bruins on Thursday in what could be a first-round playoff preview. Jason Spezza
scored his 34th goal of the season for the Senators, who own an impressive 21-13-6 record on the road this campaign. Ottawa needs one point against New Jersey or a Washington loss later Saturday to wrap up the seventh seed in the East and a first-round date with the Bruins.
"We're proud of what we've accomplished, making the playoffs, but we feel there is a lot of work left to do," Spezza said. "We're not just happy to get into the playoffs."
The Devils appear to be clicking on all cylinders heading into the playoffs, winning their fifth straight on Thursday — a 2-1 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. During their winning streak, New Jersey has allowed just six goals and scored 18. Alexei Ponikarovsky scored in the first period and Petr Sykora scored the game-winner 11:20 into the third. Goalie Martin Brodeur earned his 30th win of the season on 23 saves to earn his 14th 30-win season.
Devils centre Patrik Elias has a four-game point streak, during which he's connected for one goal and six assists. … Spezza has five goals and nine points during a six-game point streak.
For the Devils, forward Jacob Josefson (fractured left wrist) and defenceman Henrik Tallinder (blood clot) are out … Forward Chris Neil
won't play today after crashing into the end boards head and shoulder first during a freak mishap near the end of Friday's practice. However, head coach Paul MacLean said Saturday "it appears there is no concern for next week" and the start of the playoffs.
Senators forward Milan Michalek
leads Ottawa with 22 goals on the road and defenceman Erik Karlsson
leads the team with 30 assists in games played away from Scotiabank Place … The Devils' Sykora has scored 20 goals this season, the 11th time he has reached that milestone.
There is no doubt great relief in the Senators dressing room today with the news that Neil, one of the team's most physical players and key emotional leaders, should be good to go for the start of the playoffs.
Neiler's been great for us all year," said Spezza. "He's a real impactful guy. He doesn't play a ton of minutes but when he does, his presence is felt on the ice. He can be intimidating to other teams' defencemen, finishes his checks and does a lot of things that are intangible that go a long way toward helping your hockey club. He definitely makes us a better team when he's playing well."
With Neil out today, the Senators will insert winger Kaspars Daugavins
back into the lineup. On the blue line, Matt Gilroy
is back in, while Matt Carkner
is a healthy scratch along with forwards Bobby Butler
and Zenon Konopka