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Senators-Bruins Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Ottawa Senators (44-15-5) at Boston Bruins (25-30-11).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

Even though he won't come out and say it, Boston coach Mike Sullivan clearly isn't a fan of the NHL's new rules.

The Bruins look to avoid their longest losing streak of the season as they host the Northeast Division-leading Ottawa Senators.

The Bruins lost their sixth straight game Tuesday, falling 5-4 in a shootout to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boston, which also lost six in a row from Nov. 8-20, fell to 0-6 in shootouts in the first season with the tiebreaker.

"There's no doubt the shootouts are going to make a difference in the standings," coach Mike Sullivan said. "It will be a difference maker."

Asked if he liked the concept, Sullivan said: "What do you think?"

Boston also had troubles with the NHL's stricter penalty-calling this season. Toronto scored twice on 5-on-3s after Hal Gill received a cross-checking penalty and Nick Boynton a minor and 10-minute misconduct for arguing with the officials.

"It's tough to tell sometimes what is a penalty and what isn't," Sullivan said. "I think that's the frustrating part. Sometimes it's just arbitrary. It's not an easy thing to tell where that line is on a given night, but we certainly have to show some more discipline."

Sullivan wouldn't say whether he thinks his players know what the league expects of them.

"I'd rather not comment on it," he said. "You don't want to know what I think."

Marco Sturm scored twice, and Marty Reasoner and Glen Murray added goals for the Bruins, who trail Montreal by 10 points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"I thought tonight we were going to break the shootout jinx," goalie Tim Thomas said. "We worked so hard. I guess it just wasn't meant to be."

Boston is in the basement of the Northeast, 32 points behind Ottawa, which owns a two-point lead over second-place Buffalo. The Senators won for the eighth time in nine games Tuesday, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3.

Daniel Alfredsson assisted on the game-tying goal early in the third period and netted the the game-winner with seven seconds to play, giving him a career-high 82 points. Dany Heatley had a goal and two assists, and Jason Spezza had three assists to increase his total to 52 - one more than Alfredsson's team record.

"This year especially there's lots of guys who are getting personal highs," Alfredsson said Wednesday. "You don't even think about it because you're so caught up in everything else."

Goalie Ray Emery improved to 7-1 in his eighth straight start since taking over for Dominik Hasek, who injured his groin while playing for the Czech Republic during the Olympics.

"Time goes by fast for me right now," Emery said. "It's fun to hang out with the guys and know that you're going to get in there."

STANDINGS: Senators - 93 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Bruins - 61 points, 5th place, 32 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Heatley, 38 goals and 83 points; Spezza, 52 assists; Chris Neil, 157 PIM. Bruins - Sturm, 25 goals; Patrice Bergeron, 34 assists and 54 points; Hal Gill, 102 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 20.6 percent (78 for 378), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.8 percent (332 for 387), 2nd. Bruins - Power play: 15.7 percent (54 for 344), 24th. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (329 for 393), 10th.

GOALTENDERS: Senators - Emery (16-5-1, 2 SO, 2.80 GAA); Mike Morrison (10-4-2, 2.83). Bruins - Andrew Raycroft (8-18-2, 3.67); Thomas (8-7-5, 1, 2.37).


LAST MEETING: Jan. 30; Bruins, 5-0. At Ottawa, Thomas made 44 saves for his first NHL shutout as the Bruins won their third straight in the series.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 20-9-4 on the road; Bruins - 12-14-6 at home.

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