The puck drops here

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

It's Steeltown versus Bytown.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators meet in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final tonight at Scotiabank Place.

Both teams rode outstanding second halves of the season to arrive here, each with 105 points, in what shapes up to be the marquee matchup in the first round of the 2007 NHL playoffs.

This series has the sizzle with two evenly matched teams and the NHL's scoring champion, 19-year-old Sidney Crosby of the Penguins.

There's not much to choose between the two based on the regular season.

The Penguins were 29-8-4 in their final 41 games while the Senators were 27-7-7.

This is old territory for the Senators, who have made the playoffs every year the NHL has played since 1997.

For the rebuilding Penguins, this is their first visit to the post-season since the days of Mario Lemieux in 2001.

It is a series that matches up some of the brightest young offensive talent in the league in the likes of Crosby, fresh off winning his first Art Ross Trophy, and 20-year-old Evgeni Malkin, the favourite for NHL rookie of the year versus Jason Spezza and 50-goal man Dany Heatley for the Senators.

The Senators have much more playoff experience than the Penguins, but with that experience comes a lot of baggage.

Senators coach Bryan Murray kicked off the series by defending his team against the characterization of "choking dogs."

The Senators have advanced to the third round once, in 2003, before losing in seven games to the New Jersey Devils, the eventual Stanley Cup champions. They have lost in the first round five times.

The Penguins have 15 players on their roster who will be playing their first playoff game tonight.

In nets the Penguins are expected to have playoff neophyte Marc-Andre Fleury, while the Senators have Ray Emery, who got his playoff baptism last year.

Both coaches have tried to make their teams the underdog, but now it doesn't matter.

It's time to play.


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