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Penguins end schedule against surging Senators

by Wes Crosby

SENATORS (36-31-14) at PENGUINS (51-24-6)


Last 10: Ottawa 7-2-1; Pittsburgh 5-4-1

Season series: The Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators have split two games. Ottawa won 5-0 win in Pittsburgh on Dec. 23, and the Penguins evened the series with a 2-1 overtime victory Feb. 3.

Big story: The Penguins will look to enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs on a high note after losing 4-3 in overtime to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Pittsburgh dominated most of the game and outshot the Flyers 36-21 but could not capitalize on two late goals that sent the game into overtime.

"As a whole, we want to feel good about our game," Penguins forward Sidney Crosby said. "I think there were some things from today that I think were good. For a game that doesn't move us anywhere, it didn't have a lot of bearing on us, we came with the right attitude, the right mindset."

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh clinched the Metropolitan Division in early April but has not been satisfied with its game over the final two months of the season. Its top-ranked power-play unit hasn't been as effective in recent weeks because of injuries that have led to unfamiliar players (defenseman Brooks Orpik, for example) playing on the second unit.

The Penguins have started to get players back from injury, including defenseman Kris Letang, who had a stroke in late January.

"Kris has been cleared to play for about 18 days now, and when we got him back in practice, it's almost immediate how well he can skate," Bylsma said. "You see it offensively, but even defensively, just being able to skate and match up against other team's skill players with their speed, it's unique and it's a spectacle."

Senators: Ottawa has played well since closing March with three consecutive wins. The Senators' goaltending has been strong; they have surrendered two or fewer goals in six of seven games, including a 1-0 shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

"It's bittersweet. There's obviously some frustration that we couldn't have done this sooner throughout the year, but that's just part of the growing pains and some of the adversity we had," goalie Craig Anderson said after making 28 saves. "It shows good promise for a lot of our young guys and guys that maybe have only been here for a little bit, showing that they can play at this level, and going forward they're just fighting for their spot and making decisions hard for the other side knowing that we have multiple guys that can play, fill roles."

Who's hot: Penguins forward James Neal has three goals in his past two games after scoring two in 17. … Anderson has stopped 73 of 74 shots in his past two games. Forward Jason Spezza has four goals in his past four games. Forward Ales Hemsky has 17 points in 19 games since he was traded to Ottawa.

Injury report: Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin (foot) continues to skate on his own but is not expected to return until the playoffs. Pittsburgh will be without forwards Pascal Dupuis (ACL), Marcel Goc (foot), Joe Vitale (mid body) and Chris Conner (foot), and goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) … Senators forwards Mika Zibanejad (undisclosed) and Bobby Ryan (sports hernia surgery), and defenseman Jared Cowen (lower body) are out. Correspondent Sean Farrell contributed to this report

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