OTTAWA - The Battle of Ontario, as they say, ain’t what it used to be.
Time was the Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators could be counted for intense playoff series, with emotions in both cities hanging on every play.
Not anymore. The Leafs eliminated the Senators from the Stanley Cup playoffs four times in five years, but it has not happened since 2004.
Playoff talk involving the clubs, who meet at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday in a pre-season game, has taken on a whole new meaning. It has become a challenge for both teams just to get to the playoffs.
The Leafs are in a seven-year drought, while the Sens have missed the post-season in two of the past three years.
“We’re two teams trying to get started up again,” Senators centre Jason Spezza said. “We had great battles for a long time and every time we played each other it was in a game for first place.
“There is still a rivalry, just to a different extent. We’re both trying to get to the playoffs now.”
The Leafs and Sens will meet six times during the 2011-12 regular season, and Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson couldn’t help but notice a peculiar trend when he initially glanced at the schedule. Every time the Senators play the Leafs, they will have played the night or day before. Just once do the Leafs hook up with the Senators after having played the previous night.
“I don’t like it ... that’s just the way it is,” Alfredsson said. “It’s always going to be intense no matter what the situation is with the rest of the league. A lot of it is about bragging rights for the fans.
"Hopefully we can play smart when we play against them.”
Alfredsson will not play against the Leafs on Tuesday. Sens coach Paul MacLean said goalie Robin Lehner will play the entire game.
The Leafs and Sens meet on Oct. 8 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the second game of the regular season for both teams.