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Round 2

Senators vs. Rangers playoff preview

Ottawa forward Derick Brassard, New York center Mika Zibanejad go head-to-head after trade last summer

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Ottawa Senators (A2) vs. New York Rangers (WC1)

Season series: Ottawa 2-1-0

Last playoff meeting: 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals; Rangers won series 4-3

All-time playoff series: Rangers lead 1-0

 
How they got here

The Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers each advanced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with six-game series wins in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Senators defeated the Boston Bruins, clinching the series with a 3-2 overtime win Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens by winning three straight games after falling behind 2-1.

The best-of-7 second-round series between the Senators and Rangers begins at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Senators finished second in the Atlantic Division (98 points). The Rangers finished fourth in the Metropolitan Division (102 points) and got into the playoffs as the first wild card from the East.

Video: Hradek previews Sens vs. Rangers second round series

 
5 storylines

The trade comes back into focus: The Senators and Rangers should get an answer as to who won their big trade last summer. The Rangers acquired center Mika Zibanejad from the Senators for Derick Brassard on July 18. Zibanejad, who started his career with the Senators in 2011-12 and played four-plus seasons with them, scored the overtime winner against the Canadiens in Game 5 and led the Rangers with four points (one goal, three assists) in the series. He had 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 56 games in the regular season, when he missed 25 games because of a broken left leg. Brassard, who played 254 games with the Rangers from 2013-16, led the Senators with eight points (two goals, six assists) in the first round. He had 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 81 regular-season games.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Zibanejad buries shot for OT win

Erik Karlsson's health: It's not a stretch to say the Senators game plan centers around Karlsson, their captain and two-time Norris Trophy winner who is again a finalist this season. However, Karlsson told ESPN.com after Game 6 in Boston that he's playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel. He said he received injections before games in order to play. He played a combined 71:44 in Games 5 and 6 and played more than 30 minutes in three of the six games in the series. Can he keep up those minutes if he's still playing with an injury against the Rangers? He had six assists against Boston.

Ottawa's D vs. New York's four-line rotation: Senators coach Guy Boucher relies heavily on his top two defense pairs of Karlsson and Marc Methot, and Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci. He was inclined to do that in the first round because the Bruins didn't have the type of four-line rotation the Rangers have. New York will try to push the pace by rolling four lines, each featuring one 20-goal scorer (Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner). The Rangers may force Boucher to use his third pair more than he might want. On the flip side, Boucher probably won't have to be worried about getting certain matchups because the Rangers don't have a true first line; they have four good lines.

Henrik Lundqvist vs. Craig Anderson: Lundqvist is in the midst of his best stretch of the season after an inconsistent regular season. He led Eastern Conference goalies in goals-against average (1.70) and save percentage (.947) in the first round, and his 195 saves were second to Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals (197). Anderson's numbers pale in comparison, but his 1.94 GAA and .921 save percentage are solid. He also is an emotional leader for the Senators.

Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Lundqvist uses pad for clutch save

New York's power play: The Rangers ended an 0-for-14 stretch on the power play to start the playoffs by scoring on their only opportunity in Game 6 against the Canadiens. It was a good-looking power play too, with quality shots from Pavel Buchnevich and Kreider before crisp puck movement led to Mats Zuccarello's goal. Until that point, the Rangers power play looked lifeless. They are hoping they can carry the momentum of scoring on the power play in Game 6 into the second round. The Senators were 13-for-16 on the penalty kill (81.3 percent) in the first round and 5-for-23 on the power play (21.7 percent).

 
By the numbers

0: The number of goals Kreider and Miller scored in the first round after they combined for 50 in the regular season.

4: The number of goals Senators forward Bobby Ryan scored in six games in the first round after he scored 13 in 62 regular-season games.

8: The number of goals the Senators allowed in the second period during the first round; only the Columbus Blue Jackets (10) allowed more. The Rangers allowed one, which was the fewest.

Video: OTT@BOS, Gm6: Ryan tips Brassard's blast past Rask

 
In the spotlight

Senators: Dion Phaneuf, defenseman -- Phaneuf averaged 25:42 of ice time per game in the first round, 2:40 more than he averaged in the regular season. Boucher will need him to continue to play big minutes, but it's more of a pick-your-poison problem for the Senators against the Rangers because of the balance New York has on its four forward lines. Phaneuf and Ceci got caught in the defensive zone a lot against the Bruins. That can't happen against the Rangers.

Video: BOS@OTT, Gm2: Phaneuf drills home the OT winner

Rangers: Chris Kreider, forward -- Kreider arguably had one good moment in the first round, which was his rush down the left side and his deflected shot that set up Zibanejad's overtime winner in Game 5. Beyond that, Kreider played on the walls too often, he wasn't heavy enough on the forecheck, and he wasn't fast enough through the neutral zone. Kreider is the type of player who can disrupt Ottawa's defensive structure. He needs to cause chaos.

 
Keys to victory

Senators: Structure and discipline. The Rangers will try to beat the Senators with a transition game through the neutral zone that leads to opportunities off the rush. The Senators are at their best when they are ruining that game plan, when they play tight in the neutral zone with good gap control to limit the rush chances. Do that, and they'll be in control.

Rangers: Speed and patience. The key to playing with speed against the Senators is patience. They make it difficult to attack off the rush, so the Rangers might have to settle for more dump-ins than they'd like. It doesn't mean they can't attack; they just have to pick the right times, or else they might get frustrated.

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