Less and less likely Sens will see playoff aspirations slip away

Less and less likely Sens will see playoff aspirations slip away

Things are looking up for the Ottawa Senators after two straight wins, and they can start looking up the standings again as a result.
While a playoff spot isn’t a guarantee quite yet, their Saturday blowout against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Monday’s heart-stopping 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets pulled them away from the ninth-place Buffalo Sabres and put them back to within striking distance of the New Jersey Devils, who currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.
And how intriguing would it be if the Senators and Devils lined up for their 3 p.m. faceoff on the last day of the season to determine which team faced the big, bad, defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and which wound up with the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, who haven’t been in the playoffs since 2000?
That’s just one of the intriguing scenarios the Senators could consider Tuesday as they settled in for four straight days of scoreboard watching. They had a full day off and don’t play again until Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
Certainly, it appears less and less likely Ottawa will see its playoff aspirations slip away.
The reason? Tiebreakers. Even if the Senators didn’t win a single one of their final five games, the ninth-place Buffalo Sabres would still need to earn almost half of the points available to them the rest of the way to leapfrog Ottawa.
The Senators also currently hold more regulation and overtime wins than the Devils, who sat two points up heading into a Tuesday night matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. If they wound up tied in points at the end of the season, but the Senators still held that edge, they would jump ahead.
Of course, the Senators won’t spend the entire week sitting in front of the tube. They’ll be back on the practice ice Wednesday, cognizant of the need to avoid rust while they rest.
Coach Paul MacLean said the team will evaluate the mix of practice and down time as the week progresses.
“We have back-to-back games on the weekend, we have to make sure that we handle Thursday the right way and make sure we’re ready to go,” he said.
Goaltender Craig Anderson laughed when asked if he could benefit from a break — he just had a month off while recovering from a cut tendon on his pinkie finger and looked plenty energetic in turning aside 44 Winnipeg shots Monday night.
“You know, we just have to work on our game,” he said. “We played hockey the last three or four nights, and we’ve played some pretty good hockey, so we’ve got to continue that and make sure we stay mentally focused this week, and when the puck drops on Saturday, we’re ready to go.”
Daniel Alfredsson suggested the team could use the time to re-energize their minds as well as their bodies.
“We played three games in four nights (with) a lot of emotion and stress the last few days, because we know the situation we’re in,” he said.
What that situation will look like when they drop the puck Saturday is anyone’s guess, but that’s half the fun of the stretch drive.
GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday
Capitals at Bruins
Lightning at Devils
Panthers at Wild
Friday
Panthers at Blue Jackets
Penguins at Sabres
Saturday
Senators at Flyers
Sabres at Maple Leafs
Capitals at Canadiens
Devils at Hurricanes
Sunday
Senators at Islanders
Panthers at Red Wings

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