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Senators not satisfied with advancing to Eastern Conference Final

Winning first two playoff series has Ottawa eager for challenge of facing Penguins

by Chris Stevenson / Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Forward Clarke MacArthur bristled at the suggestion that after earning a place in the Eastern Conference Final, the Ottawa Senators were now playing with house money.

After defeating the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Senators will play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third conference final of Ottawa's 25-year history.


[RELATED: Complete Senators vs. Penguins series coverage]


Game 1 is at Pittsburgh on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"I guess you could say house money, but we're not satisfied either," MacArthur said of Ottawa's first trip to the conference final since 2007. "We didn't come here just to turn around and walk away. We're going to put our best effort forward. If they are going to beat us, we're going to make them earn it."

The Senators know that dethroning the defending Stanley Cup champions won't be easy.

"I don't know if anyone matches up that well with them," MacArthur said. "We'll do the best we can. We've got to find a way to slow them down and stay out of the penalty box, probably. Their power play is pretty solid. There are some things we can do to help ourselves. We'll concentrate on that."

It's easy to see why the Senators would be seen as an unlikely member of the final four in the quest for the Stanley Cup. They entered the playoffs second in the Atlantic Division but sixth in the Eastern Conference with 98 points. Ottawa was 12th in the conference in goals scored (206) and was the only playoff team with a negative goal differential (minus-2).

Pierre Dorion took over as general manager when Bryan Murray stepped down on April 10, 2016. He hired Guy Boucher as coach and said the Senators' goal was to make the playoffs in 2016-17 "and hopefully make some noise."

Backed by Craig Anderson's goaltending, the dynamic play at both ends of the ice by defenseman Erik Karlsson and a disciplined and structured defensive game, the Senators have a chance to make even more noise.

Video: OTT@NYR, Gm6: Anderson stops Hayes, Grabner in 2nd

"We're in mid-May and we're still playing hockey," Dorion said Thursday. "Our team continues to play. Our goal was to get into the playoffs from the get-go and from there hopefully make some noise, and I think we've made quite a bit of noise so far. 

"I think our group is very happy with winning the Rangers series, but what I've been impressed with in their attitude is that I don't think they are satisfied with just winning the Rangers series. I think they feel they can achieve much more."

After two days off the ice following a series-clinching 4-2 win against the Rangers on Tuesday, the Senators will practice Friday before leaving for Pittsburgh.

It's the first trip to an NHL conference final for defenseman Dion Phaneuf, 32, who's eager to begin the challenge of facing the defending champions.

Video: OTT@NYR, Gm6: Karlsson buries Ryan's slick dish

"For me to be standing here going into the conference final is a real great feeling," Phaneuf said. "With saying that, there's still a lot of work to be done. To have gone through Boston and to beat New York, and to do it with the group that we have here and be part of this organization, I'm really happy to be standing here still playing.

"We're one of the final four teams. I think that's a great accomplishment for our team, but there's lots of work left. We know where we're at. We know where we're heading. We've got a challenge ahead of us that starts on Saturday, but we've done a lot of good work so far and we've got to continue to do that.

"It's a dream as a kid to be in this position, but there's lots of work to go yet."

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