newjerseydevils.com – The Devils are past the first round of the playoffs, and are closing in on game one with the Ottawa Senators.
The Devils eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games on Sunday, including three straight wins after falling behind 2-1 in the series, to wrap up the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals four games to two.
But having dispensed of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards, the Devils’ load won’t get any lighter when the Eastern Conference Semifinals open Thursday night at the Continental Airlines Arena (7 p.m., FSN NY, WFAN 660).
Tickets for the Eastern Conference Semifinals are available by visiting the arena box office, by calling Ticketmaster charge-by-phone, or by logging on to ticketmaster.com. Ticket strips for all four potential games at the Meadowlands are available by clicking here.
It's a rematch of the 2003 Eastern Conference Final that saw Jeff Friesen eliminate Ottawa with the game-winning goal in game seven. New Jersey opened the series with a road loss before taking three straight, including a Meadowlands shutout by Brodeur in game three.
|Jeff Friesen beats Patrick Lalime to score the series-winner in game seven against Ottawa in the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals. |
Back then, Dany Heatley was still a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, and had just put up 40 goals for the first time in his career. But since the 2005 deal that sent Heatley to Ottawa in exchange for Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries, the winger has notched back-to-back 50 goal seasons, and headlines a dangerous top line rounded out by Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.
The fearsome threesome combined to account for nearly one-third of the team’s game-winning goals (22 GWG, 26.8%). Led by Heatley’s 105 points, Spezza and Alfredsson tied for second on the Sens with 87 – 39 more than Ottawa's next highest scorer, Mike Fisher.
In the first round, Ottawa overwhelmed the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games, and only two Senators to have appeared in each game of the series were held without a point. Eleven different Senators recorded at least one goal.
Alfredsson topped all Ottawa scorers with three goals and three assists, followed by Heatley and Spezza with two goals and two assists apiece. Between them, Alfredsson and Heatley accounted for three of the Sens’ game-winning goals in the series.
So the Sens can score, but can they keep the puck out of their own net?
The early signs in this postseason from goaltender Ray Emery indicate that indeed they can.
A season ago, with just six previous career appearances, Emery was thrust into the role of No. 1 when Dominik Hasek suffered a groin injury in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Hasek missed the last 25 games of the regular season and both rounds of the Sens’ 2006 playoff run that saw Ottawa beat Tampa in five games, then fall in a five-game series to Buffalo. Emery went 5-5 in his first-ever taste of the playoffs, with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage.
This year, Emery ended the regular season with a 7-3-4 record in 14 games spanning March and April, and continued to roll by allowing just 10 goals in the Pittsburgh series, capping it with a 3-0 shutout win in the series clincher.
SENS TO WATCH: Dany Heatley led Ottawa in goals (50), power-play goals (17), and short-handed goals (3). Whether he's on the ice at even strength, the PP or the PK, Heatley is a formidable scoring threat... Dig below the high-profile players on Ottawa's roster, and you'll come to the name of Antoine Vermette. Vermette may have posted only 39 regular season points, but he's dangerous on the PK, and tied Heatley for the team lead in both shorthanded goals and shorthanded points (4)... Chris Neil is also not nearly as high-profile a player as Heatley, Alfredsson or Spezza, but the Sens forward netted 12 goals in the regular season to go with a team-leading 177 penalty minutes. He's a gritty agitator with enough skill to capitalize on the odd offensive chance, and finished the Pittsburgh series with a goal and two assists.