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Penguins remind Senators a lot of themselves @NHL

OTTAWA (AP) -The Ottawa Senators can see a lot of what they used to be when they look at NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin Wednesday night.

And in facing Gary Roberts, they'll also be looking at a fearsome playoff veteran who derailed several of Ottawa's previous attempts to deliver on its once youthful promise.

The Senators are making their 10th straight playoff berth. Pittsburgh returns to the postseason for the first time since 2001-02.

Ottawa still has youth and promise on its side, yet the Penguins are even younger. And with the 19-year-old Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh's future is even more promising than Ottawa's prospects ever were.

"Starting in goal, I think you have to have a great goalie in order to be successful, and Marc has really done a good job," Crosby said.

"All the guys in here put pressure on themselves to be responsible and to work hard," Crosby said. "We do have talent, but I think our work ethic is our strength as a group, and our chemistry. I think that's what's gotten us to this point."

"I think they're a very young team, very similar to when we had (Marian) Hossa and (Martin )Havlat, top young players," Senators center Mike Fisher said.

Roberts, acquired by the Penguins in a trade with Florida, played a key role with the Toronto teams that eliminated Ottawa three times in his four seasons with the Maple Leafs.

Despite their success in consistently reaching the playoffs, the Senators have only made it to the conference final once, in 2003, when they lost to New Jersey in seven games.

Havlat was dealt to Chicago after the Senators failed to get past the second round for the eighth time in nine consecutive playoff appearances when they were eliminated by Buffalo in five games last year.

Hossa was traded to Atlanta prior to the 2005-06 season for Dany Heatley, who became the first NHL player to score at least 50 goals in consecutive seasons since Florida's Pavel Bure in 2000 and 2001 with a goal in Ottawa's season finale.

Jason Spezza, chosen second overall in the 2001 draft with a pick that was acquired in the trade that sent Alexei Yashin to the New York Islanders, had 87 points in 67 games this season.

The playmaking center compares the Penguins to the Ottawa squad that finished first in the Northeast Division last season for the fourth time in seven seasons.

"They're a little younger than we were and have a lot of top players," Spezza said. "There's a lot of similarities between the teams. They're a lot like we were last year, a high-flying team but a lot of guys with no playoff experience, but we can't take any team lightly, especially a young hockey team that wants to prove itself."

While Spezza and Heatley are the Senators' biggest offensive weapons, Ottawa has a very deep and balanced lineup with Fisher, Mike Comrie, Peter Schaefer, Antoine Vermette, Dean McAmmond, Chris Neil, Chris Kelly and captain Daniel Alfredsson, who is making his 10th straight playoff appearance with Ottawa along with defenseman Wade Redden.

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