NEW YORK -- Without question the Senators still feel pressure to win Game 7. Hey, they don't want their season to end just yet.
But if you want to talk about pressure, the Senators say you better start with the home team Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
"I think it's just the reality of the situation," Senators forward Jason Spezza said. "They almost won the Presidents' Trophy, finished first and spend to the cap. Their expectations were bigger than ours coming into the year. So, it's just a reality. That doesn't mean we don't want to win the game any less. The reality is we've been that team at the top and if you lose in the first round it's a disappointing year, where for us, we're just trying to build a foundation and move forward. But we still feel we can win, too."
"They almost won the Presidents' Trophy, finished first and spend to the cap. Their expectations were bigger than ours coming into the year. So, it's just a reality. That doesn't mean we don't want to win the game any less. The reality is we've been that team at the top and if you lose in the first round it's a disappointing year, where for us, we're just trying to build a foundation and move forward. But we still feel we can win, too." -- Jason Spezza
However, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson went as far as to say the Rangers "have to win" because of the season they had.
"Both teams have pressure, but they have a bit more on them," he added. "It's their home crowd, their home city, and they won the conference."
Back in October it seemed impossible to find anybody in the hockey business willing to give the Senators a chance to even make the playoffs. They were picked to finish last in the Eastern Conference by many publications.
Spezza said they expected that coming off a season in which they melted down and finished 13th in the East, 19 points out of a playoff spot.
"We felt like we underachieved last year," he said. "We felt we had a lot of character in our room and guys would bounce back and have a real good year. We didn't expect to not be picked toward the bottom of the League because of the year we had, but we expected more of ourselves and didn't make a big issue of it and didn't get caught too wrapped up in it because people were picking us last. We still believed we were a playoff team."
Even as the Senators started to develop into a playoff team early in the regular season, coach Paul MacLean repeatedly talked about how this was still a rebuilding season considering they have so many young players that were a part of the Binghamton Senators run to the Calder Cup in the American Hockey League last season.
Rebuilding remains a key word on MacLean's vocabulary even though his team is one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
"You can make big strides as a team to have a huge upset like this," Spezza said. "It's a lot of pressure on that group (the Rangers), and for us, if we can move on to get to the second round, that's a big step and a lot of experience. To win a Game 7 would be a huge boost for our club going forward. When you get a chance to be in these situations you learn a lot from them."
Asked if it can also be considered a learning experience to lose Game 7, Spezza said yes, "but if you can become a winning team as a young team, that can be contagious."
They're hoping it catches on Thursday.
"I know how we approach it, and we look forward to it," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "It's another test for us. We faced tests all year long just to get here. (Game 7) is another step. For us we talked about getting better each and every day, moving on, getting better for the next game. Now we have to play for that next game."
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