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Sens aim for playoff clincher

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
With a little bit of help, the Ottawa Senators can check one very important item off their list of biggest season goals tonight.

The Senators hit the ice against the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200) knowing that a victory will have them on the verge of clinching a playoff berth for the 11th straight season. And that result, combined with a Washington Capitals loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning this evening, would officially put the stamp on the Senators’ ticket to the 2008 post-season party.

“We just want to make it,” said Senators head coach/general manager Bryan Murray. “That’s all I’m really concerned about… getting in, being ready and when we get there, whoever we have to play, we’ll play.”

Added centre Jason Spezza: “You want to win (tonight). You want to try to clinch a playoff spot as early as possible, I think. It’s nice to have the security of knowing you’re in the playoffs. But it’s more important for us to play right, do the right things and we’ll be in the playoffs. We just have to make sure we go in on the right note.”

They’ll attempt to get the job done without veteran defenceman Wade Redden (bruised knee), who told reporters after Thursday morning’s optional pre-game skate that he isn’t quite ready yet for game action.

“There’s not really any sense (in trying it),” he said. “It’s still pretty sore.

“It felt better than (Wednesday) but not where I felt it was good enough to play. Hopefully, the trend continues and Saturday (in Boston against the Bruins), it’ll be good to go.”

Murray wants his blueliner pretty much at full strength before he returns.

“I don’t want him to play if he’s hurting, bottom line,” he said. “If he’s able to go and be close to 100 per cent, then he can help the hockey team.”

Meanwhile, rookie Brian Lee, who impressed everyone in his National Hockey League debut – Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the Sabres in Buffalo – figures to be a fixture in the Senators lineup for the rest of the season.

“Brian Lee is playing the rest of the games unless something happens,” said Murray. “Brian Lee is an NHL player from now on.”

That endorsement obviously sat well with Lee, who’ll have parents Richard and Carol coming in from Moorhead, Minn., to watch his first home game as a Senator.

“It’s a special feeling, I guess,” said the 21-year-old Lee. “I’m just going to come out and take it one day at a time. I’ll work hard tonight and keep things simple and try to help our team get another win.”

Around the boards

Martin Gerber (29-15-3), who makes his 13th straight start tonight, is aiming for his 100th career victory … Murray said college free-agent signee Jesse Winchester won’t play tonight, but could dress Saturday against the Bruins. “He’s been off three days (since his season at Colgate University ended). He still has a little soreness,” said Murray. “I just think it’s only fair to give the guy a couple of days with us, at least.” … Fewer than 250 tickets remain for tonight’s game.

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