It's Caps or Pens for Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

Sit back, relax and enjoy the weekend.

That was coach and GM Bryan Murray's message to the Senators after they finally clinched a playoff spot in Friday night's regular-season finale in a 2-1 loss to the Bruins at Scotiabank Place.

The playoffs will begin Wednesday or Thursday for Ottawa in Washington or Pittsburgh.

The Bruins' 3-0 loss to the Sabres last night moved Ottawa into sixth place in the Eastern Conference, meaning the Senators cannot face the Canadiens in the first round.

What happens in this afternoon's game between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will determine who Ottawa plays.

If Pittsburgh wins, the Senators finish sixth and they'll face the Capitals, who clinched the Southeast Divsion title and the No. 3 seed with a 3-1 win over the Panthers last night.

If the Flyers win today, Ottawa finishes seventh and will take on the Penguins, who'll be the No. 2 seed.

"It has been, in spite of all the games and the ups and downs in the second half, mentally straining on everybody," said a relieved Murray. "I hope this helps the players kind of put things aside for a day.

PLAYERS CAN RELAX

"If we finished in first and had 102 points, you guys wouldn't like me any better until we do something in the playoffs. We found that out last year and the year before. It's a fresh start for a lot of players."

The players were pleased they didn't have to spend last night nervously sitting in front of their TVs to watch other teams determine their playoff fate.

"It feels great to already be in. (Yesterday) and (today) would have been really tough to sit around and have to be rooting for other teams to help us out. It would be a pretty tense situation," said defenceman Chris Phillips.

"It's nice to have that over with. We can follow along and see who we're (going to play), but to know that we're in certainly takes a lot of weight off our shoulders."

"It's a fresh start for every team. All eight teams on each side," said Senators winger Chris Neil. "There's only going to be 16 teams left with a shot and you want to make sure you're part of that group.

"It's a good opportunity for us. After that start we had (15-2), you get the feeling you're invincible and we got brought back down to reality pretty quick. We get a new start and that's an opportunity for us to put the last part of the season aside and start anew."

Despite all the negativity surrounding the Senators since coach John Paddock was fired on Feb. 25, Phillips is taking a positive outlook into the playoffs.

"We feel when we're playing our best hockey, we can give anyone a good run," said Phillips. "We know that there a lot of teams that are capable of coming out of (the East). It's the same in the Western Conference. It's always interesting."


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