Sens seeking revenge on Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:50 AM ET

The Ottawa Senators can smell blood.

They know the desperate playoff hopes of the hated Maple Leafs are dangling by a thread.

Now all that remains is for the returning Martin Havlat and Co. to thrust home the final dagger tonight.

It very well might be the sweetest kill in franchise history.

Yes, the Leafs' post-season aspirations still are alive --barely -- after the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 in a shootout last night.

But the single point scooped by the defending Cup champion Lightning proved to be valuable, moving eighth-place Tampa Bay three points ahead of the Atlanta Thrashers and four in front of the Leafs.

Toronto and Atlanta have three games remaining, Tampa just two.

"When a team like Tampa loses a point in a shootout, it does put a bit of a smile on your face," Leafs defenceman Luke Richardson said last night. "But we can only be concerned with our own job at hand."

That's where the Sens come in.

Should the Sens beat the Leafs in regulation at the Air Canada Centre tonight and the Lightning gain just a point in its rematch with the Hurricanes, there will be euphoric celebrations throughout the Ottawa Valley.

And with good reason.

The cursed Leafs would be eliminated.

Four times in the previous five seasons the Battle of Ontario ended with the Leafs punting the Sens out of the post-season.

Now, after half a decade of heartbreak, the Sens have their shot at delicious revenge.

Ottawa has defeated the Leafs in all seven meetings this season, outscoring Toronto 40-15 in the process.

"We know there's a lot of people here (in Ottawa) that hate the Leafs," Sens forward Jason Spezza, a Toronto-area native, said yesterday. "We know because we hear cheering every time the out of town scoreboard shows the Leafs are losing.

"We're looking at this as a big challenge for us. Not only are we battling for first (in the Eastern Conference) but we have the chance to be the team that (stops the Leafs from making) the playoffs."

Asked if his Leafs were capable of beating the Sens after their previous seven encounters, Leafs coach Pat Quinn was non-committal.

"I don't know. They are a hell of a hockey team," Quinn said. "But I know that for us to win we are going to have to continue to do the basics of the game really well."

Quinn feels his team "will look forward" to the meeting.

"(Ottawa's) attitude this year has been that they are going to be a championship team. They could very well be."

Making the task facing the Leafs even more daunting will be the presence of Havlat, the gifted sniper who is expected to be back in action after missing 58 games with a shoulder injury.

The Sens were 15-1 with Havlat in the lineup before the talented winger suffered the injury in late November.

"I'm really happy to have the chance to come back and help the team win the Stanley Cup," Havlat said.


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