Senators' Chris Neil battles New York Rangers' Marc Staal in the 2012 playoff series. (Errol McGihon/QMI Agency)
If the Senators needed any extra motivation for Thursday's game at Scotiabank Place, they'd be better off looking at the present and future than the past.
Playing the New York Rangers does give them their first chance to avenge last spring's playoff loss, yes, but the immediate implications are much more significant.
In a condensed season, this one will be a true four-pointer.
Heading into Wednesday's action, the Senators sat seventh in the Eastern Conference standings. They are three points up on the ninth-place Rangers, but the Blueshirts have two games in hand. A loss Thursday pulls them closer to a line they are desperately trying to stay above.
At the same time, the Senators' 20 points also had them but three back of the conference-leading Montreal Canadiens. Minus six starters and four cornerstone players, they still believe in their chances. They still see opportunity in the East, where parity, not any one or two teams, reigns supreme.