Senators Flaming out?

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

TORONTO -- Chokers? Call them what you want, but if the Senators limp out of the playoff picture, they'll set a record they'd rather not have.

After a 15-2-0 start to the season, the Senators would take over for the 2001-02 Calgary Flames as the team with the highest number of points after 17 games to miss the post-season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Flames had a 12-2-3 record and 27 points to start the 2001-02 season, but missed the playoffs.

"I don't think anybody on our team, or anybody in the city, thought we'd be going into the last (two games in this situation," said Senators GM/coach Bryan Murray. "We always throw that start (of the season) in, but really it's been a constant struggle since Christmastime.

"We thought we would be in a little more comfortable position with two games to go, but we're not. We haven't scored in two games. It's a confidence thing. Everybody is pressing a little bit. Probably more than they should be. I'm not throwing anyone under the bus, but very definitely guys with high expectations of themselves are more anxious."

Boston lost 3-2 to New Jersey in a shootout to pull into a tie with the Senators (Ottawa would win the tie-breaker). Philadelphia remained a point back, losing 4-2 to Pittsburgh last night.

Battling for a playoff spot with only two games left in the regular season and the city in a state of panic, the Senators are well aware the Maple Leafs, their bitter rivals, would like nothing more than to stick a knife in the club's playoff chances tonight in Toronto.

The Senators have had a difficult time beating the Leafs when there is something on the line. Toronto has eliminated the Senators in four spring playoff series.

"I'm sure (the Leafs) want to stick it to us," said Senators winger Antoine Vermette. "It should be interesting, but that's what makes it fun as well."

Toronto, already eliminated from the post-season, would like to take the Senators down with them.

"I would think we will be ready for that game," said Leafs coach Paul Maurice. "There should be added excitement in our locker room. I would expect that it's going to be a physical game."

The picture is a little muddy for the Senators, but no matter where they sit in the East today, three points in the final two games will ensure them of a spot in the post-season -- no matter what Washington, Boston, Philly and Carolina do.

"We can control the situation with wins. That's something that you want to have a hold of," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips. "You don't want to watch the highlights hoping and needing teams to help you out.

"It's still in our hands. If you are looking for positives, that's certainly one that we can reach and use. Hopefully, that will help us to get motivated and get the job done. Knowing that we can do it ourselves."

Murray tried to play down the fact the Leafs are going to want to help send the club to an early spring.

"We don't give enough credit to teams that are out of the playoffs," said Murray. "I don't expect that they'll be any hungrier against Ottawa than they would be against another team. I expect, like every team in the league, they'll play real hard. I don't expect any break at all."


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