Bring it on, Pens!

AEDAN HELMER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Playoffs can be the Pitts.

But putting the boots to the Penguins two years in a row would also make them very sweet.

With the official end of the NHL regular season yesterday, the Senators learned the Pittsburgh Penguins will once again be their first round opponent. The new season begins Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

But unlike last year when the Sens skated past the high-flying Penguins in five games, fans aren't so sure of the same result this time around.

NERVOUS FANS

In fact, after supporting their team all the way to the Stanley Cup final last year, yesterday Sens fans in the city were more likely to be found nervously wringing their hands than flying the colours.

But at least there's no longer a need to push the panic button, which some fans did recently when Ottawa's playoff fate hung in the balance.

"I don't think the team has given the fans much hope," said Ben Falvo, a.k.a Shredder, co-host of the Senators-themed podcast SensUnderground.

"I think like most fans in the city, I don't have much hope. Around this time last year there were Sens flags on cars everywhere."

Sales of Senators merchandise might take a few playoff rounds to pick up, not that it matters to two local shopkeepers. Warren Greenwell, 16, is a huge Penguins fan, and his co-worker Jeff Snider switched allegiance years ago to the Washington Capitals.

Both work at Sports Gallery in the St. Laurent Shopping Centre, and both were rooting for their respective teams to match up against Ottawa.

"Ottawa is not playing as a team, and Pittsburgh is coming in with some chemistry," said Greenwell, whose favourite Penguin is sophomore centre Evgeni Malkin.

Snider was at Scotiabank Place the last time the Capitals visited, an embarrassing 8-6 romp over the hometown team in which superstar Alexander Ovechkin potted four goals on Martin Gerber.

"Every shot Ovechkin took, Gerber flinched," said Snider.

Other Senators fans are just glad to see their team in the playoffs for the 11th straight year -- tied with the New Jersey Devils for the second longest consecutive playoff streak going.

The feeling is especially satisfying to fans who watched the hated Toronto Maple Leafs flame out in the final weeks of the season, missing the playoffs for the third year in a row -- the worst streak in the franchise's history.

"I don't really care who they play, I'm just glad they're in," said fan Kris Ecko, 26, who joined friends at a packed Local Heroes to catch the final games of the regular season.

"I think they're going to turn it around," said fan Bob Eady, 23. "They've got to."


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