The Senators are indifferent.
Okay, they’re actually in New Jersey.
But they’d rather be in New York or Boston.
Either would be fine.
Their only real preference is to arrive at the first-round playoff destination relatively unscathed.
To do that, first they have to tiptoe around the Devils.
Should the Senators manage to take a single point from their regular-season finale, they will secure seventh place and a best-of-seven with the Bruins that unofficially starts Thursday in Beantown.
If they lose to New Jersey in regulation and Washington defeats the Rangers and Florida earns at least a point in its game with Carolina, Ottawa would land in eighth and begin the playoffs in Manhattan.
The Devils, who have won five in a row, are locked in sixth place.
“I think both teams want to do that,” Daniel Alfredsson said on the subject of avoiding injury at the Prudential Center. “I don’t think it will be an overly physical affair.”
Intensity has been missing in each of the Senators’ last two outings, a 3-1 loss to the Bruins and a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes. Almost like they’ve been indifferent.
“I think this part of it has more to do with clinching the playoff spot (last Sunday),” said coach Paul MacLean. “As much as we’d like to say we’re going to keep playing hard to the end, human nature, I think, has kicked in a little. Everyone wants to make sure everything is good, that they play a little bit careful.”
Hence, the lack of offence. Jason Spezza has scored the only two goals since his teammates erupted for five with him and Alfredsson out of the lineup Sunday.
He confirmed the letdown.
“You can’t manufacture real emotion and real desperation,” said Spezza, who tied a career high with his 34th against Boston. “You try to as a player, and this time of year can be a little bit different. You see two teams go to war, and play a game that’s not as intense as you thought it was going to be, like maybe (Thursday) night physical-wise. We’ll play them next week and it will be two totally different hockey clubs.”
If they draw the Bruins, that is.
This season, the Senators went 1-5 against Boston and 3-1 vs. the Rangers. So they want New York, right? Except that if they face the Blueshirts, they will be dragging with them a three-game losing streak.
Better to beat the Devils and go into Boston on a winning note, right?
“You’d rather be winning, but it’s more important to be prepared for that day,” MacLean said of the playoff opener. “One thing I’ve learned over the years is that once Game 83 comes, it’s a whole new season. Doesn’t matter what you did before you get there.
“I think it’s two different seasons. Once it starts, momentum is going to go one way or the other. It’s whoever handles the momentum swings the best usually ends up winning.”
Craig Anderson will start in goal for the Senators, while Martin Brodeur is schedule to work the pipes for the Devils.
“We just try to work on things,” said Alfredsson. “Go in there, have good habits, and feel good about ourselves heading into next week.”