Math might add up in Senators' favour

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

The Senators can still finish first overall in the Eastern Conference, but it might take a mathematician to figure out how.

Not only did the Lightning put smiles on the faces of Leaf haters everywhere by knocking Toronto out of playoff contention with a 3-2 win Saturday over the Hurricanes, the Bolts also kept the Senators' quest for top spot alive with the victory.

While the Senators no longer control their own destiny as they trail Carolina by a point in the standings (each team has one game left), the Senators will finish in top spot in the East if they beat the Rangers tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden and the Sabres knock off the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C.

If any overtime/shootout stuff comes into play, so does the fancy math:

- If Carolina and Ottawa both lose in regulation, the Senators will end up No. 2 because they'll have one less point in the standings.

- Should Ottawa lose in OT or by a shootout and Carolina loses its last game, then both teams end up with 112 points. The first tie-breaker is wins and that would leave the Hurricanes with 52, one more than Ottawa's 51.

- If the Hurricanes pick up a point in OT or a shootout and the Senators win, both teams would have 113 points and the tie- breaking formula would be the head-to-head between the teams. In that scenario, it wouldn't solve anything because the Senators and Hurricanes had a 2-2 record against each other. Then, they'd have to go goal differential. If that's the case, the Senators would be awarded top spot. They have scored 309 goals this season and allowed 210 against, or plus-99. Carolina, at plus-38, can't come close to matching that.

"Finishing in first place in the Eastern Conference is important," said Senators coach Bryan Murray.

THE 100-POINT CLUB: Not only has Alexei Yashin's name been erased from the Senators' record book, it will soon be forgotten. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who picked up an assist on Dany Heatley's 49th goal of the campaign on Saturday, became the club's second player this season to record 100 points. Heatley hit the century mark on Thursday and has 101 points. So Yashin's mark of 94 points, set in 1998-99, now falls to third on the all-time list. If C Jason Spezza, who has 89 points, hadn't missed 14 games due to injury this season, he too probably would have bettered Yashin's old mark. Heatley collected the puck from the official following his goal in the third period on Saturday and gave it to one of the Ottawa trainers. Heatley can become the first player in Senators' history to score 50 goals in a season when the club faces the Rangers.

INCHING CLOSER: Senators D Chris Phillips (knee) won't be in the lineup tomorrow against the Rangers, but he could be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs. Phillips has been skating every day for about a week, but he has to start taking contact in practice before he's cleared to play. The Senators won't rush him back. D Wade Redden, who left the team following Saturday's game to be with his ailing mother in Saskatchewan, will be back to face the Rangers.

ARNASON STRUGGLES: Murray will decide today after practice whether C Tyler Arnason will be back in the lineup tomorrow. Judging by the result against the Leafs, Arnason has a pretty good chance of returning because Murray will want to make changes. Arnason, acquired at the trade deadline from the Blackhawks, hasn't scored in 19 games with Ottawa. If Arnason plays, expect to see LW Vaclav Varada sit out vs. the Rangers.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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