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Senators-Devils Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Ottawa Senators (45-15-6) at New Jersey Devils (34-24-8).

TIME: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

After a pivotal win, the Ottawa Senators try to claim sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference when they face the New Jersey Devils at Continental Airlines Arena.

Ottawa, tied with Carolina atop the conference with 96 points, has a game in hand over the Hurricanes with 16 to play. The teams split their four-game season series.

The Senators improved to 9-1-1 in their last 11 games and 4-0-1 versus the Sabres this season with a 4-2 win Saturday, snapping Buffalo's eight-game winning streak.

Ottawa had a 35-9 shots advantage after two period and finished with a season-high 49 shots on goal.

More important, it moved three points ahead of Buffalo. The Senators and Sabres meet two more times.

"I thought we played very well," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "We didn't capitalize on a lot of the chances (we had), but the effort was great. And we didn't give up a lot of chances."

Peter Schaefer and Bryan Smolinski each had a goal and an assist, and rookie goaltender Ray Emery made 20 saves to earn his 17th victory in 24 starts.

Emery is 8-1-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average since starting netminder Dominik Hasek strained his adductor muscle while playing for the Czech Republic at last month's Olympics.

Hasek has begun to skate in warm-up gear and hopes to return for the playoffs, according to the team's Web site.

Leading scorer Dany Heatley assisted on Zdeno Chara's first-period goal to extend his point streak to four games. He has two goals and six assists over that span.

Heatley has a pair of tallies - one in each of the previous two meetings in New Jersey - and eight assists in 12 career games against the Devils.

New Jersey has scored just 17 goals in its last eight contests, but has gone 4-2-2 and seeks consecutive wins for only the third time since Jan. 21.

The Devils are seeded sixth in the conference and have a two-point lead over Tampa Bay and a five-point advantage over Montreal, which owns the eighth and final playoff spot.

Brian Gionta and John Madden scored in the second period and goalie Martin Brodeur made 13 saves in the Devils' 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Gionta's team-high 36th goal came after he skated between two defensemen and beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with a high slap shot.

"He's done that to all of us in practice," Devils defenseman Colin White said. "We know he has wheels, and when he sees open ice he can take off."

Gionta's next point will give him 65 this season, equaling his total from his first three years combined.

New Jersey is 29-14-1 with five ties in the all-time series, including a 14-8-0 mark with two ties at home.

STANDINGS: Senators - 96 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Devils - 76 points, 3rd place, 10 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Heatley, 38 goals and 85 points; Jason Spezza, 53 assists; Chris Neil, 159 PIM. Devils - Gionta, 36 goals and 64 points; Scott Gomez, 35 assists; Colin White, 71 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 20.2 percent (79 for 392), 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 86 percent (345 for 401), 2nd. Devils - Power play: 16.4 percent (60 for 366), 22nd. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (232 for 282), 17th.

GOALTENDERS: Senators - Emery (17-5-2, 2 SO, 2.73 GAA); Mike Morrison (10-4-2, 2.83). Devils - Brodeur (32-20-6, 5, 2.58); Scott Clemmensen (2-4-2, 3.49).


LAST MEETING: Feb. 1; Devils, 5-3. At East Rutherford, N.J., Zach Parise scored New Jersey's first goal in over 2 1/2 games and Brodeur made 27 saves for his 25th win of the season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 20-9-5 on the road; Devils - 21-9-3 at home.

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