Sens can end march of Penguins

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

The Senators can book a post-season date with Sid the Kid and Pittsburgh tonight.

If the Senators score a victory over Sidney Crosby's Penguins at Scotiabank Place, the club will lock up the No. 4 spot in the East and face Pittsburgh in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

Securing home-ice advantage against the team they will play in the post-season hasn't been lost on the Senators, who have a 1-0-2 record this season vs. Pittsburgh.

"You give them a chance to score and there's a high percentage that they're going to capitalize. They've got some guys that can finish there," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips. "If you make mistakes, they're going to take advantage of it.

"We match up good against anybody because we can play well at both ends of the ice. Our goals against is really good and we score a lot of goals. It's not like an offensive or defensive team. If you play against a team that is more offensive, then your defensive side has to be better. We pride ourselves on being a well-rounded team and we have to do that no matter who we play."

The key is shutting down Crosby, which the Senators have done well in the past, holding him to one goal in six career games against Ottawa.

Crosby, who leads the NHL in scoring with 36 goals and 81 assists for 117 points in 77 games, is closing in on his first Art Ross Trophy for a number of reasons: He moves the puck quickly, he's creative and he's got the hockey smarts that allow him to use linemates Evgeni Malkin and Colby Armstrong well.

"(Crosby's) a special, gifted player, but it's going to come down to a commitment from every guy when he's on the ice," said Senators winger Antoine Vermette. "But we've got some pretty gifted players here who are reliable defensively and they can make a difference in the game as well.

"He's smart, he's strong and he's quick. He knows where to go when he's got the puck. He's a strong overall player who doesn't just rely on his skills. That's a big positive for him. There are some skilled players in the league who are really gifted, but they don't seem to have as much character (as Crosby).

"But I like our team and whenever we have a challenge in front of us, we like to face up to it."

In a move designed to get centre Jason Spezza, winger Dany Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson ready for the playoffs, Senators coach Bryan Murray will likely stick his top trio out every time Crosby's line steps on the ice.

FACED OFF VS. MADDEN

Murray didn't try to get them away from New Jersey's John Madden in the club's 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils on Tuesday because that's what Spezza and Co. are going to face in the playoffs.

"I told them when they came off the ice a couple of times early, it was one of those games I wanted them to see (what they could face)," said Murray.

"We'll do the same thing with Pittsburgh. We'll play our (top) guys against their people."

Spezza is looking forward to the challenge.

"We're trying to play a more complete game as a line and we haven't been giving up much," said Spezza.


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