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Playoff clincher at hand for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Chris Phillips and the Senators are one victory away from wiping out the disappointing of missing the Stanley Cup playoffs last season (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Win and they're back in.

It doesn't get much simpler for the Ottawa Senators when it comes to their post-season aspirations, with step one — clinching an Eastern Conference playoff berth — so close now that they can almost taste it.

A victory or even an overtime loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) will get the job done for the Senators and return them back to the post-season after a one-year absence. Prior to that, Ottawa had qualified for the Stanley Cup playoff party in 11 straight seasons.

The Senators drew closer to a potential playoff clincher with a dramatic victory in Washington on Tuesday night, with Alex Kovalev's goal with 18.9 seconds left in overtime vanquishing the conference-leading Capitals 5-4. But the Atlanta Thrashers and New York Rangers forced Ottawa to do a little bit more work by winning their games as well. Had both lost, the Senators' push for the playoffs would have reached its conclusion already.

Right from the start of training camp, this is a team that made returning to the playoffs its No. 1 priority. And the sting of last year's post-season miss was surely a motivator along the way.

"I remember driving around the city when (last) season was done and not having to go to the rink when the playoffs were just starting," said Senators centre Chris Kelly. "It’s a sick feeling. We set the bar pretty high here and we want to be in the post-season each and every season and contending to win.

"Last year, we didn’t do that and I think we let a lot of people down and let ourselves down, not being able to compete for the Stanley Cup. To be one win away from being where we want to be is definitely a good feeling."

Added defenceman Chris Phillips: "It’s just that you’re not playing in the playoffs and it stings. It’s not a good feeling not to be there and that’s what we get paid to do. We get paid to win and when you don’t do that, it’s disappointing."

"I remember driving around the city when (last) season was done and not having to go to the rink when the playoffs were just starting. It’s a sick feeling. We set the bar pretty high here and we want to be in the post-season each and every season and contending to win. Last year, we didn’t do that and I think we let a lot of people down and let ourselves down, not being able to compete for the Stanley Cup. To be one win away from being where we want to be is definitely a good feeling." - Chris Kelly
But there was never any doubt, head coach Cory Clouston said, that this was a group that had the necessary goods to extend its season beyond April 10, when the Senators regular schedule concludes against the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place.

"We felt we were a playoff team right from Day 1," said Clouston. "We felt we were a playoff team last year in the last 30-plus games. We’ve just proved it. We haven’t done anything yet, though. We’re still not there. We still have to win one more game.

"Then a whole new season starts and whatever you did before that doesn’t matter. We're playing with confidence now and we know that once we get into the playoffs, anything can happen. As long as we’re healthy and playing the way we are now, we can do some damage in the playoffs."

After missing the post-season for the first time since his rookie year in the National Hockey League, captain Daniel Alfredsson is anxious for another crack at the big prize.

"It would be really nice, especially after the year we had last year," he said. "We believed before the season started that we turned a corner at the end of last year. It’s not easy to make the playoffs. We’ve done a good job so far and the best part is still to come."

Senators playoff tickets on sale Saturday

Tickets for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m., with a number of free giveaways and other activities planned for the Gate 1 plaza in front of Scotiabank Place.

In addition, the Sens Store will offer a one-day discount of 30 per cent off all items.

For more information, click here.


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