Mad dash to the wire

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

The Senators arrived home in the wee hours yesterday morning with a little extra baggage after their longest road trip of the season.

But it's the kind they didn't mind carrying on to the charter flight.

- Seven of eight points after victories against the Blues, Panthers and Lightning to go with a point earned in a 4-3 OT loss to the Penguins last Sunday.

- A playoff spot clinched for the 10th consecutive season, which ties them with the New Jersey Devils for the third-longest streak in the league.

But with six games still left in the regular season -- starting with tomorrow night's return to Scotiabank Place against the Boston Bruins -- the Senators still have plenty to play for as the year winds down.

PENS OR DEVILS?

The Senators still haven't secured home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. With each passing day, it looks more likely the Penguins or Devils will provide their opening test.

"We've got to try to win every night that we can for (home-ice advantage)," said Murray following Ottawa's 7-2 victory over the Lightning on Saturday.

"We've got to make sure we keep playing at this level. I think the energy we're showing now, the puck movement we're showing now and the ability to use a lot of people has been good for us."

The Senators also still have an outside shot at overtaking Buffalo for the Northeast Division lead. Ottawa trails the Sabres by five points and Buffalo owns a game in hand. But the slim possibility still exists that the Senators can grab top spot.

Another goal is to help winger Dany Heatley, who scored his 44th and 45th against the Bolts, in his quest for back-to-back 50-goal seasons.

"He has to get a couple of games like (Saturday), but with five games to go, at least he has a chance now," said Murray.

But Murray isn't going to push too hard going into the post-season. He's been careful about giving the players extra time off, and most morning skates are now optional because he wants the Senators to keep their energy and focus for the playoffs.

"We've got six games left. In that stretch, where we've had success, we had some games where we would have rather gotten two points, then maybe we'd be a point or two behind Buffalo," said defenceman Chris Phillips. "But we're making a good push and this is where you want to be going into the playoffs."

TIGHT FINISH

There's still a lot left to be settled in the East, and nobody can remember a race that has been this tight.

"I don't remember it being this close, and I don't have the greatest memory in the world, but I don't remember it being like this -- especially in the Eastern Conference," said Tampa coach John Tortorella.

"I guess that's what the league wants. They want the league playing along together. It's a good battle. Look at our situation, we could go up and win a division or be out and watching in April. I just don't remember it being like this since I've been in the league."


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