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GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (43-33-6) at Ottawa Senators (52-21-9).
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; Game 1.
TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EDT.
The Ottawa Senators have been one of the best teams in the regular season and one of the worst teams in the playoffs.
They look to put aside their postseason failures as they host Game 1 of their conference quarterfinal series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Ottawa is seeded among the top two teams in the East for the fourth time since 1999 but has yet to reach a Stanley Cup final. The Senators reached the conference finals in 2003, but they also were swept in first-round series as a No. 2 seed in both 1999 and 2001.
Those failures, coupled with an inability to defeat their provincial rivals - the Toronto Maple Leafs - in the playoffs, cost coach Jacques Martin his job after the 2004-05 season. Bryan Murray, who matched the 2002-03 franchise record with 52 wins in his first season as coach, has his team looking ahead as opposed to the past.
"I wasn't here before and I don't know how they addressed the playoffs," Murray said. "We're going to have a little fun with this. We're going to compete well in this playoff, we're going to allow our good players to be good players and go from there.
"And the past to me is like the blackboard - you just erase it."
Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson led the Senators to an NHL-high 312 goals. Heatley became the first 50-goal scorer in franchise history and tied Alfredsson for the team lead with 103 points.
"I think we all want to prove something," Heatley said. "We came here for one reason in training camp and the guys who have been here for a while and have not done what they wanted to do, definitely want to prove that we can (win)."
Rookie goaltender Ray Emery will start as No. 1 netminder Dominik Hasek continues to recover from an injury suffered in the Olympics. The Senators had the luxury of using the post-Olympic schedule to prepare the 23-year-old Emery for his first NHL postseason.
"Experience is helpful, but that's not saying you can't succeed not having any," Emery said. "I don't think it's the situation here with the team we have that I have to stand on my head."
Despite their title as defending champions, the Lightning are embracing their underdog role in this series to the Senators, against whom they've lost 17 of their last 20 games in the past five seasons. Tampa was inconsistent for most of the season and did not clinch a playoff berth until its penultimate game.
"I understand they have had success against us, but I think the past few games we've playd them, a turn here or a turn there and it could be a different result," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We're looking forward to it. We're right where we want to be. ... They're the ones that for the past couple months: `No one is going to be able to touch them.' So we want the opportunity first."
Brad Richards was Tampa's best offensive player down the stretch, registering a point in 16 of his last 17 games. The 2004 Conn Smythe winner finished with team highs of 68 assists and 91 points.
Martin St. Louis, who was tied for second on the Lightning with 31 goals, feels their 2004 experience will provide the Lightning an advantage.
"They've won a lot of games and they have a lot of players with big numbers, but I think playoff hockey is a different game," St. Louis said. "Our experience of two years ago, I think, is going to help us. You have to beat the best to win it, so you might as well beat them first."
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lightning - 92 points; 8th seed. Senators - 113 points; 1st seed.
REGULAR SEASON TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Vincent Lacavalier, 35 goals; Richards, 68 assists and 91 points; Pavel Kubina, 96 PIM. Senators - Heatley, 50 goals; Jason Spezza, 71 assists; Heatley and Alfredsson, 103 points; Chris Neil, 204 PIM.
REGULAR SEASON SPECIAL TEAMS: Lightning - Power play: 16.7 percent (81 for 485), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (318 for 390), 20th. Senators - Power play: 20.8 percent (102 for 490), 4th. Penalty killing: 84.7 percent (403 for 476), 4th.
GOALTENDERS: Lightning - John Grahame (29-22-1, 5 SO, 3.06 GAA); Sean Burke (14-10-4, 2, 2.80). Senators - Emery (23-11-4, 3, 2.82); Mike Morrison (1-0-1, 0, 3.48).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Senators, 4-0. The Senators outscored the Lightning 16-6 in their season sweep as Heatley and Alfredsson combined for five goals and seven assists in the four games. Lecavalier had three of Tampa's six goals.
|Apr 29 '06||TBL 2 at OTT 3||M. Havlat|
|Apr 27 '06||OTT 5 at TBL 2||D. Heatley|
|Apr 25 '06||OTT 8 at TBL 4||A. Vermette|
|Apr 23 '06||TBL 4 at OTT 3||M. St. Louis|
|Apr 21 '06||TBL 1 at OTT 4||J. Spezza|