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Phillips working with a wealth of playoff know-how

by Erin Nicks

KANATA, Ont. -- Veteran defenseman Chris Phillips played in his 100th postseason game on Monday night, and in his 12 years of playoff participation, the Ottawa Senators blueliner has garnered plenty of memories while chasing Lord Stanley's infamous mug.

"There's some big moments in there," Phillips said. "My first series was when were seeded eighth and we beat New Jersey [in 1998]. That was huge for us and huge for the city. The excitement that was in [Ottawa] after we won was unbelievable.

"For me, scoring in overtime in Game 6 against the Devils in the [2003 Eastern] Conference Finals was a big goal and memorable for me. The year we went to the Stanley Cup Finals [against the Anaheim Ducks in 2007] was obviously big, too. If there was any part that blended together, it was those three or four years when it seemed like we played Toronto every year and came up on the wrong end."

The Sens' current series has been another to remember for Phillips. No one expected Ottawa to participate in this year's postseason, and as the club's group of veterans and fresh-faced young players banded together, they clawed their way into the eighth seed. The top-seeded New York Rangers lead their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series 2-1, but Phillips has been doing this a long time -- he knows the team has to stay the course.


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"You don't look at being behind, you don't look too far ahead, and you don't look at results," he said. "You look at the fact that right now for us, it's [Wednesday night] and you go and play the game. You do what you can to win, and you play the best that you can. Hopefully, at the end of the game you've done enough to come out on top. If we do that and we tie the series, or we're down 3-1, it doesn't change how you go and play the next game. You just have to keep pushing, and I think that's probably the biggest lesson I've learned: Not get too wrapped up in 'what ifs.' It's honestly about going and playing the next game and letting the results fall where they will.

"It's been a hard-fought series, that's what the playoffs are about. The intensity is fun for us and that's just going to continue to escalate as the games go on."

Ottawa's newest stay-at-home defenseman, Jared Cowen, is experiencing his first postseason with the big club, and the veteran Phillips recognizes what the 21-year-old is going through.

"Those two situations are similar: My first year and this one for [Cowen]," Phillips said. "I definitely see a similarity in how the fans are, from the regular season to all of the sudden coming into the first year of playoffs. It's almost night and day. Just to be a part of that, to see the excitement and be able to feed off of that, is fun."

As one of the leaders of the team, Phillips is looked to in times of struggle -- the most recent case involved the loss of captain Daniel Alfredsson due to a concussion in Game 2. However, the 34-year-old says his position is set, regardless of the situation.

"It doesn't change my role for what I'm expected off the ice, or on the ice," he said. "[Being the leader] is a fun position to be in -- to be a role model, to try and get guys going and lead by example."

After 100 playoff games, Phillips feels like he's seen it all, but that doesn't mean he takes the opportunities for granted, or slacks off on preparation.

"You see the intensity, the excitement … everything gets elevated so much more. But it's not a surprise; you've got to be ready for it. And you and your team have to elevate as well if you want to win and be successful."

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